This story is a staff report from The Paper.

,

The loveable New Mexico wildfire icon Smokey Bear turns 78 this week.

Smokey was born Aug. 9, 1944, as a campaign to prevent forest fires but the real Smokey came to be six years later.

In the spring of 1950, a young bear cub was found alive after being caught and badly burned while taking shelter up in a tree in a burning forest within New Mexico’s Capitan Mountains. The firefighters later named him Smokey.

Smokey lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. until his death in 1976. After his death, he was returned to the Capitans and was buried.

Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history, educating generations of Americans about their role in preventing wildfires.

Darley Newman, host of Travels with Darley on PBS, and representatives from the USDA Forest Service hosted a birthday party for the beloved bear. They swapped stories about Smokey and even answered questions from the public on Facebook Live.