As Smokey Bear gets ready to turn 65, the LAT takes a look at the history of the animal behind the longest-running public-service campaign in the country's history. It all started in August 1944 to protect wood in wartime. But his message—"Only you can prevent forest fires"—stuck and kept going. Think he's inoffensive? Think again. Many see Smokey as directly responsible for the widely held belief that all forest fires are bad, an attitude that helped to create the thick forests that burn across much of the West every year. But Smokey has lots of fans who don't want to hear any of it, and the government has to constantly watch out for people who think they can appropriate his image for a laugh. "We take it very seriously," said Libby Kavoulakis, who oversees Smokey for a marketing firm. "It's ridiculous what you see people do with Smokey. There's always someone out there who has Smokey with a joint."
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