"Know Before You Go" Campaign Spreads Like Wildfire

Ad with Smokey Bear and message Know BEFORE You Go.
The Know BEFORE You Go Smokey Bear advertisement was developed by the park and forest to promote fire restriction awareness.

The summer of 2012 in western Wyoming started out dry, after a below-normal snowpack and dismal spring rainfall. The conditions led to extreme fire danger and fire restrictions in early July, just in time for the peak tourist season. The Teton Interagency area--including Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, as well as Teton, Lincoln, and Sublette counties--went into fire restrictions July 1 for the first time since 2007. Fire prevention and education staff from all involved entities knew they had to be creative and consistent in their messaging to reach tourists, as well as local outdoor enthusiasts.

The group landed on the slogan “Know BEFORE You Go” to encourage people to call ahead or check websites for fire restrictions before heading into the backcountry. The slogan is familiar--it is also used by the Bridger-Teton National Forest avalanche center to remind backcountry users to be aware of the avalanche danger. The slogan was made into newspaper ads, like the one shown here. Local celebrity Harrison Ford recorded a series of eight “know BEFORE you go” radio public service announcements (PSAs), such as the following:

“Wyoming is vast, wild, and wonderful. There are plenty of places to have a summer adventure in a state that has more cows than people. I'm Harrison Ford asking you to make sure you know the fire restrictions before heading out for your summer fun. For information, visit tetonfires.com. This message is brought to you from Teton Interagency Fire and this radio station. Know BEFORE you go!”

One PSA describing how to correctly extinguish a campfire said, “Cold and wet should describe more than your dog’s nose.” That phrase was so popular it is now being used in the Southeast as part of a prevention campaign. The PSAs were played throughout the summer by several radio stations in Wyoming. They are still available at www.tetonfires.com.

The interagency group reached out in many creative ways to make sure the public was aware of and hearing consistent fire restriction messages. The park fire management staff worked closely with Grand Teton Lodge Company (GTLC), the largest concessionaire in Grand Teton National Park, so not only park visitors but also lodge company employees would understand the fire danger and restrictions. GTLC included fire restrictions information on their website and in their employee newsletter, at their concierge desks, and on bulletin boards in their lobbies. Their wranglers and river guides used fire danger messages provided by Teton Interagency Fire during activities including guided trail rides and river float trips.

With the help of the Teton County public information officer and fire marshal, the group also reached out to the Chamber of Commerce, as well as visitor centers, restaurants, and businesses specializing in outdoor recreation. Should the summer of 2013 be a repeat with hot, dry conditions, Teton Interagency Fire has the messages and partnerships in place for a successful fire prevention campaign.

Contact: Traci Weaver, fire communication & education
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (307) 739-3692

Last updated: January 17, 2017