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Smokey Bear cautions a new generation

Words matter. Consider Smokey Bear, who turned 70 on Saturday.

Most of us of a certain age find ourselves wanting to call the lovable old fire-prevention figure “Smokey the Bear.” But his name was Smokey Bear when he was created in 1944, and it still is, today. A popular song about the mythical bear written in the early 1950s added the “the” for a smoother lyric.

According to CBS News, Smokey was created during the war out of fear that spies would set forest fires in America while many of our firefighters were in the armed services overseas. But after the war, Smokey continued to spread his message.

“Now,” CBS reports, “Smokey is a social media connoisseur and prolific blogger, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter (Smokey_Bear), Instagram, YouTube and Flickr. He has more than 300,000 friends on Facebook and 24,000 people follow him on Twitter.”

His message, though, has been tweaked. Smokey used to stare at his viewers and intone: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” Now, it’s “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” That’s because of the need for public awareness about fires that rage out of control in suburban areas.

Smokey, like all of us, has had to be flexible and change with the times.