Smokey Bear Highway Signs

Forest fire prevention signs along highways, such as this one along U.S. Highway 395 on the Toiyabe National Forest in the 1960s, helped get Smokey Bear’s fire prevention message across to the public.

Smokey Bear fire prevention posters in campgrounds, stores, motels, and public buildings catch the attention of foot traffic. Strategic placement of larger forest fire prevention appeals helps get the message across to motorized travelers on highways and roads.

To meet this challenge on the Toiyabe National Forest in the 1960s, Bridgeport Ranger District fire control officer Marion Hysell designed, and with fire crew labor constructed and erected, attractive and effective log fire prevention sign structures placed along U.S. Highway 395 and the Twin Lakes highway which led to the district’s largest complex of campgrounds, resorts, and summer homes.

The logs for these sign structures were lodgepole pines selected by the FCO and cut by the fire crew. Peeled of their bark while green with draw knives and shovels (Yep! A sharp shovel flakes bark off green lodgepole pine logs just as slick as you please!), stacked and dried, these logs were the raw material from which signs we thought beautiful and functional were crafted.


Fire Control Officer Marion Hysell and fire crew members constructed large fire prevention sign mounts of lodgepole pine logs.

Fire crew members assembled and installed this log mount for a four-foot-by-eight-foot horizontal fire prevention sign along U.S Highway 395 at Devil’s Gate, about a dozen miles north of the Bridgeport Ranger Station.


This log structure supported an attractive vertical Smokey Bear fire prevention sign erected along another stretch of U.S. Highway 395.

Stained brown and maintained, these signs communicated their fire prevention messages for many years. There is no way of knowing how many wildfires may have been prevented by these signs. But the district ranger and his fire control officer, fire prevention guard, and fire crew knew they had made a good effort to prevent such fires.

Adapted from the 2018 third edition of Toiyabe Patrol, the writer’s memoir of five U.S. Forest Service summers on the Toiyabe National Forest in the 1960s.

5 thoughts on “Smokey Bear Highway Signs”

  1. But that reminds me about some of the small, seemingly insignificant projects I’ve seen go though NEPA, such as a 30-foot trench for a soil survey.

  2. Curious as to go about finding my poster that was chosen for the 395 Hwy near New Pine Creek, CA for Modoc County schools between 1980 to 1986. Any help would b greatly appreciated.


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