Inform the Public

ranger using a smartphone to update the public about a wildland fire
A public information officer (PIO) uses a smartphone to update social media during a prescribed fire at Shenandoah National Park.

NPS Photo

Park ranger gives an interview to inform the public
An NPS PIO gives a media interview during the Big Meadow Fire in Yosemite.

NPS Photo

Public engagement is an important part of the Wildland Fire program in the National Park Service.

Wildland fires may affect local communities, businesses, the visiting public, and employees, so it’s important to keep these various audiences informed about wildland fire activities, including about wildfires, prescribed fires, and fuels reduction projects.

Fire activity varies greatly in different parts of the country, and a visit to a national park may be someone’s first opportunity to see a wildfire or prescribed fire. During active wildland fires, the public most frequently hears from a public information officer (PIO), who is trained to speak to the media and public using common language so firefighting activities can be better understood. PIOs may be stationed to answer questions at overlooks where smoke or fire activity is visible. In some locations, where it’s safe, the public may be able to take a short tour of a fire area or a fire camp.

Frequently, if a fire is affecting a local community, a community meeting will be held to help the residents and visiting public understand fire behavior and how firefighters are responding to a fire.

Because smoke affects air quality, it has the greatest impact on community members and the visiting public with health issues. Learn more about how to avoid smoke and what the National Park Service does to mitigate the effects of smoke when possible.

The National Park Service uses a variety of methods to inform the public about wildland fire. These include:

  • InciWeb (Incident Information System)
  • Social media
  • Press releases
  • Alerts on park websites
  • In-person discussions
Learn more about public information officers (PIOs)

Last updated: February 10, 2017