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Smokey Bear Turns 70, SC Fire Numbers Down

web posted August 9, 2014

COLUMBIA –  For over 50 years, Smokey Bear has been proclaiming “Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Since his birthday on August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America’s forests. His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres lost annually to wildfires, from about 22 million in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million annually today.
Despite Smokey’s warnings, wildfires remain a serious threat to our forests.  Here in South Carolina, over 2,400 wildfires scorch an average of 17,000 acres of valuable forestland each year.  During the last 10 years, over 350 homes have been destroyed by wildfire in South Carolina.
Western wildfires have gained a lot of media attention lately.  However, the South actually experiences a higher number of wildfires.  Fortunately, most wildfires are preventable.  Although many fires in the West are caused by lightning, over 90% of wildfires in our state are caused by people. Careless debris burning and arson top the list of causes of wildfires in South Carolina, accounting for over 60% of the fire starts.  Unattended campfires, equipment use, and children playing with matches are also significant causes.
Thanks to abundant rainfall, the number of wildfires that have occurred in South Carolina in the past few years has been below normal.  During this period of low fire occurrence, the SC Forestry Commission has been able to rebuild some firefighting capacity by purchasing equipment and hiring additional firefighters.  Rebuilding this capacity has been possible thanks to the support of the Governor and state legislature.
So, as Smokey celebrates his birthday this weekend, remember to heed his message and be careful with all fires!
To wish Smokey a happy birthday, you can sign his card:  https://www.facebook.com/smokeybear/app_647757158645348
For more information about Smokey’s journey, go to:  http://www.smokeybear.com/vault/

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