The best fire safety protocol is ultimately always prevention. Teaching children in particular is especially important. Children’s curious and experimental natures are delightful, but unfortunately can lead to tragedy when fire, matches, and fireworks are involved. In fact, unsupervised activities and children playing with fire are the second leading cause of all forest and home fires.
Fire safety mascots like Smokey the Bear and Sparky the Dog have played an important role in fire safety education and fire prevention, and have been beloved by children across the country since the 1950’s.
The real history of Smokey the Bear began one spring day in 1950 in New Mexico. A fire tower operator near the Capitan Mountains noticed smoke, and the nearest crew was alerted and quickly responded, where they discovered a massive fire roaring through the trees. Forest Rangers, Army soldiers, and Native American crews valiantly battled the blaze, and miraculously also found and rescued an orphan bear cub. None of the men were hurt, and that little bear cub was nursed back to health. He would grow to become one of the most famous, beloved, and longest running public service icons in American history.
Although the Smokey the Bear wildfire prevention education campaign was created in 1944 by the CFFP, the real Smokey the Bear’s introduction in 1950 greatly helped to grow the campaign’s popularity, and Smokey has educated generations of Americans about their important role in preventing forest fires.
Smokey’s original slogan “Remember…Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” was created in 1947, and remained until 2001, when it was modified to “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Smokey’s message is as relevant today as it was in 1944, and he remains a cherished and iconic American character.
In 1951, the NFPA created Sparky the Fire Dog as their official mascot. Sparky is also a widely recognized public service character, beloved by children and adults alike. Sparky’s character began as a stern authoritarian figure, and as the decades since his creation have passed, he has changed and become loved by children across the country for his approachable, smiling friendliness.
Sparky the Dog is presently highly active in educating children about fire safety in their homes and communities. He visits schools often, participates in community events, and educates children by entertaining them, accompanied by his firefighter friends.
He also is the featured spokesdog for Fire Prevention Week in October.
Sparky hosts a popular interactive children’s website, is in children’s books about fire safety, and even narrates his website for very young children who can’t yet read.
Smokey the Bear’s and Sparky the Dog’s sixty-six year history as treasured American icons has no doubt contributed immensely to incalculable fire safety prevention and has saved countless lives. They will certainly continue to do so for many more.
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