Many are familiar with Smokey Bear, the nation’s mascot for fire prevention. But California has its own fire safety mascot, too: a mountain lion named Cal.
Captain Cal was unveiled to the public on June 2019 after five years of development by CAL FIRE and former Disney artist Toby Wilson.
While Smokey is all about educating people on the importance of fire safety, Cal is about educating the public on fire, pool, earthquake and all other types of safety, according to CAL FIRE.
In the agency’s origin story for Cal, they say he was rescued by firefighters from a wildfire burning through his forest home. The firefighters saw Cal’s potential and made him into a firefighter.
This made-up story would practically become a reality the following year – except for the part about a mountain lion becoming a firefighter – when CAL FIRE rescued a mountain lion cub during the 2020 Zogg Fire.
The Zogg Fire started on Sep. 27, 2020, and raged through 56,338 acres of Shasta and Tehama counties, destroyed 204 buildings, killed four people and injured one person.
The cub was rescued by CAL FIRE crews on Sep. 27, 2020. He was named Cal, and was sent to the Oakland Zoo to receive further treatment. A wound specialist with UC Davis was able to wrap the cub’s scorched paws.
Making a strong recovery, Cal was united with two female cubs that were also rescued from the Zogg Fire.
In December 2020, Cal along with the two female cubs were sent to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Today, the real Captain Cal and his sisters, Poppy and Goldie, are still living in Ohio.
Meanwhile in California, the symbolic Captain Cal has been helping CAL FIRE out with fire safety events, county fairs and community events.