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Smokey Bear and his message of fire safety is being added to M-72

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The US Ad Council says about 80 percent of people who love the outdoors know this guy, and now he has a new presence in northern Michigan. A sign with Smokey Bear has gone up on M-72 between Grayling and Mio. 

Commonly mis-adressed as "Smokey the Bear," Smokey Bear has been sharing his message of fire safety and prevention since 1944.

Even though Smokey Bear has reached the wise age of 77, he’s not too old to help prevent wildfires. The new sign is another move to do just that. Debra-Ann Brabazon, Fire Safety Specialist with the Huron-Manistee National Forest, said that adding Smokey along the Michigan roads is another way to draw peoples' attention to fire safety.


“So what happens is, when we start to try to get our word out, we try to hit as many people as we can. Not everybody does social media, not everybody reads the newspaper. But a lot of people do travel, and word travels,” Brabazon said.


More billboards calling attention to fire safety this time of year, according to Brabazon. She said it's because of the abundance of travel from down state to up north.


"They're going north because, one, it's cooler. Two, it's not as populated, and three, they want to have a campfire," Brabazon said. "So, when people come north, they don't always know what the conditions are up here."


Travelers are more likely to spot Smokey as they head north, because the large amount of foliage increases wildfire risk, but Brabazon said that Smokey’s message is the same across the state. It’s up to passers-by to heed his warning.


“Smokey Bear makes an appearance everywhere, whether it's at a fair in Oakland County, or Kent County, or a variety of other places," Brabazon said. "Smokey Bear is everywhere. Whether or not people pay attention to his presence is another story.”


Smokey also has a new sign on US-23 in Iosco County. Brabazon said the signs are part of a partnership between the National Forest Service and local communities. Officials said they’d like to see more partnerships, and more signs, in the future.

This story was produced as part of the Michigan News Group Internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight community newspapers. Riley works at the Cadillac News.