Forest Fire Prevention
To understand how Smokey Bear became associated with forest fire prevention, we must go back to World War II. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. The following spring in 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced near the coast of Southern California and fired a salvo of shells that exploded on an oil field near Santa Barbara, very close to the Los Padres National Forest. Americans throughout the country were shocked by the news that the war had now been brought directly to the American mainland. There was concern that further attacks could bring a disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. There was also a fear that enemy incendiary shells exploding in the forests of the Pacific Coast could easily set off numerous raging forest fires. With experienced firefighters and other able-bodied men engaged in the armed forces, the home communities had to deal with the forest fires as best they could. Protection of these forests became a matter of national importance, and a new idea was born. If people could be urged to be more careful, perhaps some of the fires could be prevented. With this is mind, the Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign with the help of the Wartime Advertising Council and the Association of State Foresters.
Posters and slogans were created by the War Advertising Council, including "Forest Fires Aid the Enemy", and "Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon." By using catchy phrases, colorful posters and other fire prevention messages, the Advertising Council suggested that people could prevent accidental fires and help win the war.Back to American Icon Continue to Bambi or Bear?