Several cultural icons turn 70 this year.
Actor Michael Douglas. Singer-songwriter Diana Ross. Filmmaker George Lucas.
And the furry mammal Smokey Bear, known for catchy sayings such as, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
How does he plan to celebrate his milestone birthday?
“Preventing fires, that’s all he wants,” proclaims a video on the site, smokeybear.com.
Anaheim Fire & Rescue officials hope to give him his wish, putting its own twist on the national campaign #SmokeyBearHug.
Fire officials kicked off preparations last week, gathering 30 Boy, Girl and Cub scouts for cake and a photo session with the iconic forest firefighter. The idea: to engage a new generation in fire prevention awareness.
In areas near wildlands, such as the eastern portion of Anaheim, prevention education is particularly important, said Anaheim Fire Marshal Jeff G. Lutz.
Isabella Ramirez, a 6th-grader at John Marshall Elementary, was among those who were familiar with Smokey Bear.
“When he was a cub, he was rescued from a wild fire,” she said. “I’ve seen him on TV.”
She colored photos and had cake before the bear made an appearance. The children – and a group of seniors from Walnut Village – cheered.
AF&R officials plan to launch a special website where young people will be invited to post photos of themselves hugging Smokey via the department’s website – www.anaheim.net/fire
On Aug. 9 – Smokey’s actual birthday – there will be a virtual party.
But that’s really only the beginning, fire officials say. They hope to return to the schools in the fall, get more students to the fire station for tours and reignite interest in fire safety.
Last year, they put a fire danger sign featuring Smokey Bear outside Fire Station 10 across from Sycamore Park. Lutz said he’s received dozens of comments about it.
“Our generation grew up with Smokey,” he said, adding that he hopes today’s children embrace him in the same way.