PSA campaign equips Central Oregon to become a fire-adapted community

Wildfire starts in Central Oregon have increased as more people recreate in local forests, build campfires, use equipment and burn debris to manage their properties. Climate change combined with a century of fire suppression has led to dangerously dry and dense vegetation, increasing the likelihood of extreme wildfires in the region. This poses a challenge to the community as visitors and residents may not be aware of the history of wildfires and the fire risks that are present.

Fire-adapted communities have resilient landscapes, prevent human wildfire starts, reduce wildfire and smoke impacts to human health, encourage community action to create defensible space and support land management action that reduces wildfire risk.

In an effort to build a more fire-adapted community in the region, Ariel Cowan, Oregon State University Extension Service regional fire specialist, collaborated with partners of the Central Oregon Fire Prevention Co-Op. With funding from the Oregon State Fire Marshal, a media campaign was implemented to share locally-customized public service announcements to support communities to become more fire-adapted.

OSU Extension and Oregon State Fire Marshal co-facilitated project organization, script writing, reviewing, filming and collection of previous footage to craft six videos developed in both English and Spanish. The topics were:

  • Safe debris burning.
  • Outdoor recreation.
  • Reducing wildfire risks to your home.
  • Landscape treatments.
  • Managing smoke and public health.
  • Evacuation best practices.

The videos are now permanently posted on the news stations' YouTube accounts and Project Wildfire's website and YouTube account.

The videos feature cameo appearances from Smokey Bear, Buster the Fire Dog and Bigfoot. The videos directed viewers to Central Oregon Fire Info, a website where they can find more information. The campaign aired on local news networks throughout the year, were displayed on local news websites, and the audio aired on local radio across the region.

As a result, there has been increased thought and discussion across Central Oregon on fire-adapted communities. Many community members expressed that they are interested in learning more after hearing the ads. This reach increases awareness of the website as a resource for the latest fire information such as prescribed burn announcements, wildfire updates and evacuations.

The reach also provides the opportunity to connect the audience to virtual and in-person workshops on wildfire home protection strategies offered every spring through a partnership between OSU Extension, Oregon State Fire Marshal, Oregon Department of Forestry, and local fire departments. On the radio, the videos reached an estimated 83,969 listeners over the age of 12 and each listener heard the ad an average of 2.9 times. Over the course of seven months, the television ads were viewed 1 million times and reached 90,487 viewers.

Overall, community members are now equipped with some key takeaways on what they can do for their own preparedness and information to share with others.

Additional partners on this project included Oregon Living With Fire, Bend Fire & Rescue, United States Forest Service Deschutes National Forest, Deschutes County Public Health and Discover Your Forest

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