Collaborative Efforts Shine: Smokey Bear Award Recognizes BLM Utah’s Innovative Role in Fire Prevention

Blake Johnson, Public Affairs Specialist

In a year marked by dedication and hard work in fire prevention and education, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fire Program in Utah, alongside its esteemed interagency partners, clinched a significant accolade—the 2023 Bronze Smokey Bear Award. This prestigious honor recognizes their outstanding contributions to wildfire prevention through their joint efforts in the Utah Fire Sense campaign.  

The Bronze Smoke Award trophy sits on a desk.
The Bronze Smokey Bear Award given to the Utah Fire Sense Campaign Team. Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Natural Resources Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention, has long been an advocate for responsible fire management, reminding us all that "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." The Smokey Bear Awards honor those who go above and beyond in promoting wildfire prevention; and since 2021, the Fire Sense campaign has proven itself to be a shining example of this initiative. The Bronze Smokey Bear Award is the highest honor given to organizations or individuals for outstanding wildfire prevention service that has impact within a state over at least a two-year period. 

The Fire Sense campaign has been at the forefront of wildfire prevention and education in the state. The campaign is a collaborative effort between Bonneville Communications, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands. The combined commitment to raising awareness about wildfire risks, advocating for responsible fire practices and engaging with local communities has undoubtedly made a significant impact.  

The 2023 Bronze Smokey Bear Award is a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work put forth by BLM Utah Fire and their partners. Together, they've implemented innovative approaches to wildfire prevention through strategic public outreach to reduce the risk of wildfires in Utah. 

With a meticulous focus on addressing the five most common behaviors linked to human-caused wildfires in Utah - campfires, vehicles, target shooting, fireworks, and debris burns - the Fire Sense campaign not only heightened awareness but also catalyzed meaningful change. Their strategic approach involved crafting engaging yet informative commercials for local TV and radio broadcasts which specifically targeted communities with varying wildfire risk behaviors.  

Several of the Fire Sense billboards placed across the state of Utah.
Several of the Fire Sense billboards placed across the state of Utah.

Additionally, Fire Sense’s extensive presence across billboards, magazines, and various social media platforms ensured broad exposure. Utah Fire Sense remained vigilant, closely monitoring wildfire conditions and incidents to respond appropriately. In a poignant example, prior to the initiation of the Fire Sense campaign in 2020, a wildfire sparked by teens using fireworks resulted in the evacuation of 200 households, the scorching of 12,000 acres, and a $2.8 million suppression effort. In a remarkable turnaround, Fire Sense produced a commercial featuring the same teens advocating for cautious firework use during its inaugural summer. 

Print advertisements promoting safe debris burning, distributed in collaboration with the Farm Bureau.
Print advertisements promoting safe debris burning, distributed in collaboration with the Farm Bureau.

The campaign garnered support from Utah's governor, Spencer Cox, who actively participated in press events and collaborative video projects, amplifying the campaign's mission and impact. 

Utah's Governor Spencer Cox stands speaking behind a podium with Fire Sense members behind him.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox speaking at the 2023 Fire Sense kickoff event, June 5, 2023.

Through this collaborative spirit, Fire Sense effectively raised awareness about the importance of fire safety, promoted responsible land management practices, and empowered communities to take proactive measures in fire prevention. In 2022, through broadcast TV, radio, podcasts, social media, billboards, and digital ads, they captured approximately 53 million impressions. 

Receiving the Bronze Smokey Bear Award is a well-deserved recognition of the tireless efforts put forth by BLM Utah Fire and its interagency partner in safeguarding Utah's natural landscapes and communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires. Their commitment to the Smokey Bear mantra—preventing wildfires before they start—is a shining example for all of us to follow.  

BLM Utah State Fire Management Officer Chris Delaney stands behind a podium addressing a crowd. Behind him is a shelf of fireworks and a shelf of gallons of water and buckets for dousing campfires and fireworks.
BLM Utah State Fire Management Officer Chris Delaney speaking at a Macey’s grocery store commemorating Fire Sense providing buckets and gallons of water next to firewood and fireworks, encouraging customers to douse their campfires and fireworks.