SALEM — The severity of wildfire threats to Oregon’s environment, communities, and residents has led to longer and costlier fire seasons for state and local responders. The problem has also captured the attention of Oregonians, in all corners of the state, who are seeing and breathing the effects of fires that impact forests, as well as Oregonians located close to and in the wildland urban interface.
Seeing the growing challenge after recent fire seasons, the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) in 2019 decided to enlist a Pacific Northwest icon to connect with and inspire the public to reduce risks of human-caused fires.
Bigfoot To The Rescue
In May, the OSFM introduced Bigfoot as the “star” of its public education campaign focusing on fire prevention and education efforts in the wildland urban interface, and in communities at greatest risk of wildfire and property loss. The campaign is also intended for Oregonians and visitors who may recreate in Bigfoot’s wilderness home.
“The sneak preview of our first Bigfoot image in March in a Facebook post reached more than 100,000 people, and Bigfoot became a viral sensation in and beyond Oregon,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Walker.
“At that moment we knew this idea would appeal to a large audience. We hope our Bigfoot campaign will draw attention and create a bigger ‘footprint’ of wildfire prevention efforts around the state, including with our local fire agencies who play an important role in educating and inspiring residents to practice fire safety around their homes, in their communities and in surrounding wildlands.”
Bigfoot’s message is to “believe in fire safety,” with the hashtag #BelieveInFireSafety. The OSFM’s Fire and Life Safety Education Division worked with the State’s Publishing & Distribution office to create images and education materials showing Bigfoot outdoors and protecting his wilderness “home.” The materials highlight how preventing human-caused wildfires in Bigfoot’s home, residents also protect their homes and communities.
More than a dozen images showing Bigfoot recreating and enjoying Oregon have been posted on the OSFM’s web site. Anyone from the public can download a free colorful Bigfoot poster, mobile phone and desktop wallpaper images, a full suite of colorful social media images, and even an iconic shirt design.
The images show Bigfoot hiking, fly fishing, four-wheeling, and putting out campfires responsibly. The goal from the start was to have people share the message and educate their friends, families, and neighbors on social media and by word of mouth.
Within days of the campaign’s launch in late May, the OSFM’s Twitter and Facebook posts about Bigfoot had tens of thousands of views and many positive comments, like, “Love love love these.” One advertising news reporter told the OSFM: “I must confess, this campaign is genius. I see so many submissions and projects to know how this one really stands out and should be up for awards. Nice job.”
The OSFM office was contacted by numerous businesses who wanted partnerships and the Redmond Airport, which will soon display Bigfoot posters seen by visitors. The campaign also generated stories by more than a dozen news organizations, all sharing a message of fire safety.
Spread the Word: Coasters, Stickers & Posters
More than 15,000 Bigfoot beverage coasters and 30,000 stickers were shared with more than 100 local fire service agencies to be used for public education efforts in an attempt to reduce the number of human-caused fires in communities and wildlands statewide.
The OSFM continues to share images of Bigfoot with fire safety messages weekly on social media. Billboards will also display Bigfoot from July through early September on roads used by Oregonians and visitors alike, when fire risks are high. The OSFM also will hold social media contests for Bigfoot T-shirts this summer.
Based on the overwhelmingly popular response to Bigfoot materials to date, the OSFM expects many Oregonians will be sharing the “believe in fire safety” message throughout the summer.
To find your favorite Bigfoot image and spread the word, visit the OSFM website, download and repeat.