Smokey Bear

Since 1944, Smokey Bear has protected America’s forests from unwanted, human-caused fire. His message of wildfire prevention is the center of the longest running public service advertising campaign in our Nation’s history.


Though Smokey has been essential to the reduction of unwanted human-caused wildfires, he still needs help. Even today, nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people. Now more than ever, Smokey needs you to help prevent unwanted, human-caused wildfires.


A colored pencil drawing of Smokey Bear's head wearing his ranger hat with his name on it.

Smokey Bear's Reading Challenge

Celebrate Smokey’s 80th Birthday by joining the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge and engage youth in reading about wildfire prevention, forests, and natural resource careers while they explore their local environment.

Libraries from 45 States have joined the reading challenge!

Complete the challenge through your local library with a printable book log or through the online Beanstack platform. No local library? You can still participate through the digital toolkit!


  • Learn more about wildfire prevention, forests, & natural resource careers
  • Browse Smokey's Reading List for book suggestions for all ages
  • Print free bookmarks, posters, activity sheets, & more
Poster for the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge in honor of Smokey Bear's 80th birthday.

Smokey Bear Helps Kick Off His Reading Challenge in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Forest Rangers, represented by Ranger Nathan Blanchard, accompanied Smokey Bear to kick off Smokey’s Reading Challenge at the New Hampshire State Library in Concord. The Forest Rangers are excited to support both Smokey’s Reading Challenge and the 2024 Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) “Adventure Begins at Your Library.”

A Brief History of Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear was born as the national symbol of wildfire prevention on August 9, 1944. Since that time, his original message (“Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires”) has evolved to today’s message: “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” Despite the campaign’s success over the years, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical issues affecting our country. Smokey’s message is as relevant and urgent today as it was in 1944.

  • The first Smokey Bear poster featuring Smokey pouring water over a campfire.

    The Birth of the Campaign

    On August 9, 1944, the Forest Service authorized the creation of Smokey Bear as the national symbol of wildfire prevention. Artist Albert Staehle delivered the first poster on October 10. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear soon became popular, and his image began appearing on more posters and cards.
  • A black bear cub rests on a shaggy rug. A sign behind him reads "Remember - only you can prevent forest fires!"

    A Rescued Bear Cub

    In 1950, a major wildfire swept through the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. Firefighters discovered a black bear cub that had climbed a tree to escape the fire. The cub's paws and hind legs were badly burned, so the crew captured the cub for treatment. The bear cub made a full recovery, and many people followed his story in the press.
  • A statue of Smokey Bear stands next to a sign that reads "Smokey Bear Zone" at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC.

    The Living Symbol of Smokey Bear

    The New Mexico State game warden wrote to the chief of the Forest Service, offering to present the cub to the Agency as long as the cub would be dedicated to a wildfire prevention publicity program. The cub was soon on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, becoming the living symbol of Smokey Bear. The newly named Smokey Bear lived at the National Zoo until his death in 1976.
  • A Smokey Bear wildfire prevention poster that reads "Only You." Smokey's head is the "o" in "You."

    Smokey Bear on the Job

    The work of Smokey Bear continues. Smokey Bear's message of wildfire prevention remains crucial, and he still needs your help. His catchphrase reflects your responsibility: Only you can prevent wildfires.

Smokey Bear LIVE 4 - Coming October 2024!

Join Smokey Bear and other experts to learn more about human-caused wildfires. The episodes will release each Friday in October on the Natural Inquirer YouTube channel.


Each Friday will focus on a different wildfire cause: campfires, vehicles, and fireworks. The last Friday in October will be a live Q&A with experts answering your questions!


Check our Virtual Learning Adventures page for more updates!


Natural Inquirer is excited to partner with Smokey Bear and the Forest Service to provide a variety of educational resources about Smokey and wildfire prevention. You’ll find resources like collector cards, articles, activities, and virtual learning adventures – FREE!

  • Smokey Bear has his very own collector card! Learn more about his job as a wildfire prevention specialist, tools he uses for the job, and his most exciting project. The...

    Smokey Bear Collector Card Pack

  • The messages of Smokey Bear have spread across the globe. Today, Smokey continues to teach people of all ages about the importance of preventing wildfires. Just how effective is Smokey’s...

    A Burning Question – Vol. 1 No. 19

  • Welcome to Smokey Bear LIVE, a distance learning adventure brought to you by the USDA Forest Service and the Natural Inquirer. There are currently three different Smokey Bear LIVE programs:...

    Smokey Bear LIVE

  • This module will combine information about fire prevention along with Smokey Bear’s role in spreading awareness of human contributions to wildfires. Then we’ll look at the work of fire prevention...

    Smokey Bear Learning Module

  • Come “Bee” A Fire Scientist with our new coloring book! Order free copies or download today!

    Bee A Fire Scientist Coloring Book

  • Learn about fire science with this more advanced coloring book with more intricate line drawings!

    Advanced Fire Scientist Coloring Book

  • In this 22-minute video, learn about Smokey’s history as a national icon, the bear cub that was found and became the living symbol of Smokey, and Smokey Bear’s fire prevention...

    Smokey Bear LIVE 1

  • Smokey Bear LIVE 2 was webcast live on November 7, 2019, from Capitan, New Mexico, where Smokey Bear was found before he lived at the National Zoo and returned to...

    Smokey Bear LIVE 2

  • In this 55-minute video, Smokey Bear and his friends discuss specific wildfire prevention topics such as: fire science, good fire vs bad fire, Smokey Bear’s Rules for Wildfire Prevention, and...

    Smokey Bear LIVE 3

  • This edition of the Natural Inquirer is all about wildland fire. You will learn about the benefits of wildland fire, as well as some of its dangers. You will learn...

    Wildland Fire – Vol. 4 No. 1

  • This edition of the Natural Inquirer is all about wildland fire. You will learn about the benefits of wildland fire, as well as some of its dangers. You will learn...

    Wildland Fire – Spanish

Coming Soon: Meet Smokey Bear's Team

In honor of Smokey Bear’s 80th Birthday, we will be releasing a new Reader: “Meet Smokey Bear’s Team.” In it, children from pre-K through 2nd grade will learn about Smokey Bear’s work in wildfire prevention and meet some of the people who help him on his mission.

Check here to browse our list of Readers and keep an eye out for “Meet Smokey Bear’s Team.”

The new Reader includes:

  • Colorful illustrations and photos
  • A glossary of new terms
  • Questions to spark conversation
  • A fun drawing activity
Cover of the Meet Smokey Bear's Team Reader, featuring an illustration of Smokey Bear seated and surrounded by woodland animals.

The Longest Running Public Service Ad Campaign in US History

Enjoy some of the vintage Smokey Bear posters that make up 80 years of public service!