CAMANO ISLAND — Smokey Bear is back in town.
Only you can protect him.
What’s up with that?
The 5-foot metal cutout is the third Smokey Bear to stand by the fire danger warning sign on Highway 532 near the entrance to Camano Island.
His predecessors both were cub-napped.
Smokey the First went missing decades ago. Smokey the Second had been in place for years until he suddenly vanished in October.
Smokey the Third is a spare bear hand-me-down from the state’s Department of Natural Resources, courtesy of the Sedro-Woolley office.
“This really should be Smokey the Last,” said Bronlea Mishler, Camano Island Fire & Rescue spokesperson.
His backside is a little faded, but he’s still a fine looking bare-chested guy in blue jeans, paunch and all.
Fire department workers Jay Jacks and Jake Schorzman took extreme measures and power tools to secure Smokey to the 12-foot pole.
“I rounded the heads off the bolts,” Jacks said. “You can’t just walk up with a wrench and take him. You’ve got to be more determined than that.”
Smokey Bear is so much more than a cartoon hunk.
“It is to draw attention to the fire danger on our island,” Mishler said.
“It’s a way to remind folks that we face fire risks, too. There aren’t a ton of fire hydrants and we have a lot of people who come to camp and are seasonal residents. We want to make sure they know, ‘Hey, things are very dry, please don’t burn or at least be very cognizant if you do.’ We don’t want people to become complacent.”
Smokey has been the darling of the Forest Service since 1944, but he came later to the party.
“Please, Mister, don’t be careless” was the pre-Smokey campaign featuring Bambi, Flower the skunk and Thumper the rabbit with the slogan.
The animal trio was successful as a fire prevention symbol, but Disney only loaned the characters to the cause for one year.
So, the Forest Service came up with a poster depicting a bear cub pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear was a hit. Its name and image are protected by the Smokey Bear Act of 1952. An Act of Congress provided for the use of collected royalties and fees for continued wildfire prevention education, not commercial exploitation.
Smokey’s name has always intentionally been spelled differently from the adjective “smoky.” There is no “the” in the middle. It’s Smokey Bear. Like Smokey Point.
The catchphrase “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” was updated in 2001 to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” in response to the outbreak of wildfires.
Please, Mister, keep your paws off the bear by the side of the road on Camano Island.