Bigfoot Wants You to Believe in Fire Safety

Fire Prevention Officers: Emilie Anderson, Bigfoot, Jason Dennis, and Carmen Westfall

The Corvallis Fire Department enlisted Bigfoot to help promote fire safety awareness this summer. Every Wednesday through August, Bigfoot and Fire Prevention Officers from the Corvallis Fire Department will hang out in a public outdoor space in Corvallis to share information on fire safety and offer educational material and prizes. 

Fire Safety Promotion and Contest 

Around noon on Wednesdays, the City of Corvallis posts visual clues to the latest Bigfoot sighting on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.  The Fire Department is also running a contest. Prizes include a fire truck tour, a hands-on fire hose drill, and a

Bigfoot t-shirt.  

To enter, find Bigfoot and either enter the prize drawing in person or enter it online by taking a selfie and tagging the City of Corvallis on social media. Tag any of the following profiles: 

How Bigfoot Got Involved 

Bigfoot, formally known as Sasquatch, was recruited due to his success with the “Believe in Fire Safety” camping promoting wildfire and forest fire awareness and prevention for the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.   

Corvallis Fire Prevention Officer Carmen Westfall said she was looking for a social distanced alternative to the Corvallis Fire Department’s open house event. The open house usually attracts 1,500 community members to Station One over a four-hour time period. Since that is not an option, they wanted to find another way to engage the community and promote fire prevention.  

Westfall said they brainstormed ideas where they “could get out into the community that would allow people to come out and find us. We can still maintain that physical distancing and give families an opportunity to come out and have something to do during the summer.”  

Westfall saw Bigfoot’s wildfire campaign and reached out to the state about using their campaign materials, but the state’s Bigfoot turned out to be smaller than expected. They ended up commissioning a 7-foot-tall stand-up bigfoot that Northwest Graphic Imaging printed. 

Forest Fire Prevention 

Bigfoot originally promoted forest fire prevention and has a vested interest in wildfire prevention.   

“He would say please extinguish your campfires,” said Westfall regarding Bigfoot. “Help keep my home safe.”   

In addition, Westfall reminds campers to limit campfires to designated areas to reduce the risk of starting a forest fire.  

Preventing Home Fires 

Fires in the kitchen are the most common causes of house fires. The Corvallis Fire Department has an educational campaign planned for the fall specifically addressing kitchen fires.  

“It’s remarkable how [unattended cooking] probably accounts for around 78% of home fires in Corvallis,” said Fire Prevention officer Jason Dennis. “People are cooking and they walk away and get distracted by something.”  

“It can happen anytime of the year, but we do typically see a little bit of an increase in the fall time after students come back,” Westfall explained, drawing a correlation to “students who may be living off campus for the first time or by themselves.”  

Dennis commented that a residential sprinkler system can limit fire damage in apartments.  

He explained that they have been on a couple of calls where a home “had a residential sprinkler system in the kitchen. So, it contained the fire to just the stovetop, while other apartments didn’t have [a sprinkler system] and the fire took the whole apartment.”  

Westfall and Dennis both emphasized the importance of a working fire and carbon monoxide alarm and a working fire extinguisher. They suggest keeping the kitchen fire extinguisher in a place that is both easy to reach and not right next to the stove.   

Sometimes a person can put out a small cooking fire simply by quickly putting a lid on a pan. 

 “You need three things to have a fire. [Oxygen, heat, and fuel or combustible material.] So by covering the pan you’re removing the oxygen,” said Westfall.  

Create a Family Plan 

The fire prevention officers recommend that every household create a fire and emergency escape plan.   

“It’s always good to draw an outline of your house,” said Westfall. “You need to have two ways out of every room.”  

“If you’re in the living room, and something happens in the kitchen, what are your two ways out from that area of the house? Practice your fire escape plan.”  

“One of the most important things about your home escape planning is [to designate] your meeting place,” explained Westfall. “That’s important for a couple of different reasons. When we show up, we’re going to ask you, did everybody get out of the house?” 

Preventing Backyard Fires 

During the summer, many people enjoy backyard barbeques or fire pits. The officers suggest taking a few precautions like placing the fire pit at least 15 feet away from any structures and away from plants, trees, furnishings and other combustibles. Also, be sure to extinguish the fire before going inside for the night.   

Corvallis residents are welcome to contact the Corvallis Fire Department with any questions or to learn about fire prevention.  

“I think it’s important for them to understand that we are here as a resource for them,” said Westfall.   

By Samantha Sied