Smokey Bear license plates part of state’s campaign to prevent forest fires

Nov 21, 2023, 7:50 AM | Updated: 7:58 am

smokey bear...

Smokey Bear by U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service participates in 96th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's, Inc.)

(Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's, Inc.)

Washington lawmakers are hoping to get Smokey Bear’s iconic message — “Only you can prevent fires”– back in the public eye again through a signature campaign to create the state’s first-ever Smokey Bear license plate.

State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz stated the plate will raise fire prevention awareness.

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“I think we’ve lost a lot of the importance of stressing that only you can prevent wildfires,” State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz told KIRO Newsradio. “More and more of our fires are now in every single corner of our state. This year, we saw more fires on the west side of the state than ever in recorded history.”

The Department of Licensing requires a petition with 3,500 signatures before they will consider the Smokey Bear plate. The plate would feature Smokey Bear with his signature slogan, “Only you can prevent fires.”

“Everyone knows Smokey, so when people travel to our state, it will be very easy for them to quickly embrace the powerful safety message that these license plates embody,” Pierce County Fire Chief Jim Sharp told KIRO Newsradio.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met over the summer to discuss the federal government’s actions to address the escalating annual wildfire season. Data obtained by the Government Accountability Office revealed smoke from wildfires makes up for 30% of the United States’ emissions of particulates.

More than half of the most destructive wildfires in the history of the U.S. have occurred since 2018. The acres burned in wildfires annually have doubled in the past 30 years and are forecast to double again in the next 30 years.

“The job isn’t done. We’re not just asking you to put this license plate on your car, we need everyone to step up just as our firefighters have stepped up,” Franz continued.

What’s next: Hillary Franz ends governor run, shifts to replace Derek Kilmer in Congress

Franz was running for governor against Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert and others, but decided to drop out of the race to instead run to a  represent the 6th Congressional District.

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Smokey Bear license plates part of state’s campaign to prevent forest fires