Smokey Bear turns 70, but don't bring candles

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Smokey Bear turns 70, but don't bring candles
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds up a Smokey the Bear doll after being named an Honorary Forest Ranger for his leadership on climate change at the U.S. Forest Services Honorary Forest Ranger ceremony on October 30, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 09: Actress Betty White holds a Smokey the Bear stuffed doll and wears a U.S. Forest Ranger hat after being named an honorary Forest Ranger at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 9, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA - JUNE 26: A Smokey the Bear sign is seen as firefighters battle the Angora fire as it approaches homes June 26, 2007 in South Lake Tahoe, California. Firefighters continue to battle the 2,700 acre Angora wildfire near Lake Tahoe that has consumed over 200 structures. The fire is now 40 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A sign that reads 'Only you can prevent forest fires' (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds up a Smokey the Bear doll after being named an Honorary Forest Ranger for his leadership on climate change at the U.S. Forest Services Honorary Forest Ranger ceremony on October 30, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, right, presents former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with a plaque and Smokey the Bear stuffed toy during a ceremony at the Agriculture Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, where Schwarzenegger was named the agency's third honorary Forest Ranger for his leadership on climate change. Schwarzenegger joins actress Betty White and Rolling Stones keyboard player Chuck Leavell as an honorary ranger. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Smokey Bear Kaibab National Forest Tusayan, Arizona
Smokey the Bear fire danger sign in southern Utah, USA
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds up a Smokey the Bear doll after being named an Honorary Forest Ranger for his leadership on climate change at the U.S. Forest Services Honorary Forest Ranger ceremony on October 30, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Smokey Bear is turning 70 on Saturday - but don't bring any candles to the party, please.

As the friendly, huggable bear with the brimmed hat and shovel enters his golden years, he's burning up Twitter. But his message of fire prevention through personal responsibility hasn't changed much.

Here are some little-known facts about Smokey Bear on his big day.

STAYING POWER: Smokey Bear was created in 1944 because of fears that America's enemies would set forest fires while most U.S. firefighters were in battle overseas. When the war ended, Smokey stuck around - and he's now at the center of the longest-running public service announcement campaign in U.S. history. Research shows he is known by 96 percent of American adults and ranks near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for name recognition. His creation was a collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

A SOCIAL ANIMAL: Smokey's image has evolved over the decades to fit the latest media technology. When he first debuted, TV was in its infancy and posters were hand-drawn. Now, 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. Fans can sign a virtual card and upload photos atwww.smokeybear.com. People still like to write to Smokey the old-fashioned way, too. The imaginary bear got his own ZIP code (20252) in 1952 as his popularity soared and it was reactivated this summer.

A QUIET BEAR: Smokey traditionally never spoke in his public service messages except for his signature line (Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires). Now, social media has given him a new outlet - and he's chatty. "It turns out he does have a voice and it's very clever," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. Still, Smokey's message is sometimes best relayed through silence. A series of YouTube videos created around his 70th birthday show Smokey giving silent bear hugs (#SmokeyBearHug) to campers who properly build and extinguish camp fires and safely dispose of used barbeque charcoal, among other things.

WHAT'S IN A NAME: Most people know the finger-pointing fire-safety fanatic as Smokey THE Bear, but in fact there is no "the" in the original name. In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song in his honor and added a "the" between "Smokey" and "Bear" to keep the rhythm flowing.

A BEAR IN THE CITY: In 2001, Smokey's public relations team changed his classic line to the more updated phrase, Only You Can Prevent Wildfires and revamped the campaign to address the growing threat of devastating wildfires in suburban and urban areas. Smokey hit the cities with a three-year "refreshed" campaign targeting casual adult hikers, bikers and campers and those living in urban areas adjacent to forest land.

THE 'REAL' SMOKEY: Smokey Bear's nascent ad campaign got a boost in 1950 when a real bear cub that had been rescued from a New Mexico wildfire was nursed back to health and sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., as the living Smokey.

THE VOICE: Actor Sam Elliott, known for playing the bowling alley-narrator in "The Big Lebowski" and supporting roles in movies like "Up in the Air" and "Mask," has served as the latest voice for Smokey. Both share the same "birthday." Elliott, the son of a Fish and Wildlife official, also turns 70.

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