Wildland Firefighter Museum and Smokey Bear Gift shop — a must-see stop in Capitan

Interior of Wildland Firefighter Museum
Interior of Wildland Firefighter Museum

In the summer of 1999, a family of forest service firefighters with an interest in old firefighting tools put together a unique museum in the tiny town of Capitan, New Mexico. Capitan lies at the foot of the Capitan Mountains and rests on rolling wooded hills. It is surrounded by the juniper, pinon, and aspen-studded 1.1 million acre Lincoln National Forest. Capitan’s claim to fame is singular: Its forest is the birthplace and burial site of the world-renowned Smokey Bear.

The museum and gift shop are housed in the same building and located across the street from the State Smokey Bear Historical Park. Both are "must see" tourist stops on a tour of the town. The gift shop, as its name implies, carries an assortment of Smokey Bear items. It has been in business since the mid 1970s.

In the museum visitors will find antique firefighting tools and equipment, pictures and videos of fires, old Smokey Bear memorabilia, and a display of crew and fire shirts from across the nation.

Descriptive plaques of the equipment and tools educate the public about wildland firefighting. Educational materials are on hand for wildland fire prevention education.

The founders have done their best to represent all agencies, and the museum carries a M.O.U. (memorandum of understanding) which is a working partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.