Can Smokey (the Bear) Get His Groove Back?

August 10 2009, 12:37 PM

Back in 1950, an orphaned bear cub that was nursed back to health helped spawn a simple message: "Only you can prevent forest fires." While Smokey was an icon for two generations, in recent years he's been forgotten. "Um, who's Smokey the Bear?" a skateboarder in downtown Denver asked CBS4 when Smokey showed up on Friday, flanked by U.S. Forest Service rangers, to mingle with kids. "It's called grip and grin," explains Linda Hecker, who oversees the Smokey Program for the Forest Service in Colorado. It's Smokey's attempt to recover the street cred he lost when he tried to go, well, street about 15 years ago. That's when he put on sunglasses, an "SB" medallion, and launched a career in public-service rap: "My friends depend on me, Smokey B, to voice a plea, to protect the forest and protect the trees." Even Smokey was uncomfortable with his rap career, as the YouTube video below demonstrates. As Smokey, now 65, returns to his roots, he'd be sad to hear that two fires burned this weekend in southwest Colorado, the largest of which charred about 5,000 acres around the Narraguinnep Canyon (via The Denver Post). Several smaller fires also burned around the state over the weekend.