DEC dedicates Smokey Bear Field on 75th anniversary of iconic campaign

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has named a field at the Otis Pike Preserve West in Manorville after Smokey Bear, in honor of the advertising icon’s 75th birthday.

Smokey Bear Field is a 20-acre grassland east of Line Road and south of Grumman Road in Manorville. The area has long been used by DEC forest rangers and volunteers to teach about wildfire control efforts, like prescribed fires, according to a DEC press release.

“This field in the heart of the Pine Barrens, which is both a fire-prone and a fire-dependent ecosystem, reinforces Smokey’s iconic ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires’ message,” DEC regional director Carrie Meek Gallagher said in a statement. “DEC forest rangers and other volunteers frequently conduct prescribed fires on this field in order to restore grassland habitats, become proficient in wildland firefighting techniques, and build a buffer where local volunteer firefighters can potentially deploy resources. This truly is a field where DEC makes concentrated efforts to ‘Prevent Wildfires’ and their destruction, just as Smokey taught us.”

Smokey Bear was authorized by the U.S. Forest Service on Aug. 9, 1944. The first poster was delivered that October by artist Albert Staehle. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire, the DEC said, adding that “Smokey continues to be the most recognized symbol of fire prevention in the world.”

The DEC is using the dedication to spread a message about the importance of wildfire prevention. In 2018, DEC Forest Rangers statewide made 62 prevention presentations to 23,810 people, mostly at large events like the New York State Fair.