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'Smokey' the longest-running campaign still teaching fire safety

Fire prevention message resonates as much now as it did when the campaign launched in the 1950s

By Kimberly Hopson
The L'Observateur 

LAPLACE, La. — LaPlace Elementary School received a special visit from Smokey Bear on Monday morning. The familiar mascot toured several St. John the Baptist Parish schools to share information with kindergarten children about the dangers of forest fires.

The Smokey Bear character is based on a real-life bear cub that was found during a wildfire in New Mexico in the 1950s. Firefighters found the cub in a charred tree, where he had climbed to seek refuge from the flames. His hind legs and paws were badly burned, preventing him from walking. The cub was then adopted by a local rancher and named Smokey. Soon after, the story of the orphan bear cub spread very quickly, receiving national attention. Smokey eventually became a living symbol for the longest running public service announcement campaign in history.

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