South Carolina Forestry Commission
News Release

March 26, 2010


Sign beforeSign afterDavod Owen and Mike Bozzo put up sign.

(Columbia,SC)–-Like many celebrities, Smokey Bear has decided to undergo a cosmetic procedure to restore his youthful appearance.  

Drivers passing the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s state headquarters on Broad River Road may have noticed the Smokey sign has been gone for a while.  The Forestry Commission landmark was sent away to be spruced up, no pun intended.  This week Smokey Bear returned sporting a more vivid look and new wording:  “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

“Smokey’s message has evolved over the years,” says Scott Hawkins of the Forestry Commission’s Information and Education division.  “He used to say ‘only you can prevent forest fires,’ but these days he says wildfires.”

The change in wording came about after decades of Smokey getting really good at what he does.  Mike Bozzo, the Forestry Commission’s fire prevention coordinator, says some agencies feared the Smokey campaign was undermining prescribed fire, which is a critical land management tool in forestry and agriculture.

“Some felt Smokey was a little too effective at preventing all kinds of fire, even the good kind,” says Bozzo.

“It’s good to broaden the message anyway,” added Hawkins.  “Not everyone lives in the forest.  Wildfire threatens all types of landscapes and with new development in South Carolina, more and more of our citizens are living in the wildland-urban interface, putting them at risk.”

Smokey returned to his roadside home just in time for his busy season.  South Carolina and other southeastern US states are in the midst of wildfire season, which generally runs in the late winter through early spring.  Federal fire prevention funds paid for the facelift.

Commission employees reckon the double-sided Smokey Bear (there is no “the” in his name) sign first went up in front of their offices some time in the early 1970s.  It got a new paint job in 1994 for Smokey’s 50th birthday.  This time, the sign has been wrapped in the technique of modern outdoor advertising.  Its posts also go much deeper into the ground now, thanks to the not quite yet faded painful memory of a Smokey kidnapping in the early 1980s.




For more information, contact Scott Hawkins at (803) 896-8820.


 The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource.  For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,300.00 of economic impact.


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