The U.S. Forest Service has launched a new series of Smokey Bear public service ads to raise awareness about wildfire prevention.

The new ads feature Smokey s well-known tagline, Only YOU can prevent wildfires, but there is a new twist: bear hugs.

The ads feature Smokey giving hugs to people who take the proper steps to prevent fires.

It's a kinder, gentler Smokey, who, in his 70-year campaign, has had a bit of a stern demeanor.

Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, said while research shows that nearly all Americans are aware of Smokey and his message, many don t know exactly what to do.

These ads educate audiences about specific steps to properly safeguard against accidental fire and I believe they will be effective. After all, who doesn t want a hug from Smokey Bear? she said.

The ads feature on-screen a hashtag, #SmokeyBearHug, in addition to the address of a Web site, The campaign is also on Facebook and Twitter.

According to statistics from the Ad Council, Smokey Bear s campaign has helped to reduce wildfires from 22 million acres annually when the campaign was launched 69 years ago, to an average of 6.9 million acres today. Still, nine out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people, so Smokey Bear s work remains important.

The real-life symbol of Smokey Bear was a black bear cub who was found in 1950, clinging to a tree after he was caught in the Capitan Gap fire in New Mexico.

Below is the Smokey the Bear Song from 1952, in which the writers employed some artistic license. The correct name is Smokey Bear, not Smokey THE Bear.

As one woman stated on Smokey s Facebook page You Don't Call Him Santa THE Clause or Easter THE Bunny so Don't Call Him Smokey THE Bear.

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