A veteran Georgia Forestry Commission forester and Warnell graduate has earned the nation’s highest wildfire prevention honor.
Wildfire mitigation specialist Mark Wiles (BSFR ’98) of Elbert County is the winner of the 2022 Silver Smokey Bear Award. The award recognizes people and organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service, with significant wildfire prevention impact.
“Mark is particularly deserving of this distinction,” said Georgia Forestry Commission director Tim Lowrimore (BSFR ’98). “Throughout his 40-year career, he has been dedicated to wildfire prevention awareness and has led numerous federal fire prevention teams throughout the U.S. Mark’s creativity and passion amplify Smokey’s message of wildfire prevention, and that has had a discernible effect on the incidence of wildfires.”
Since the 1950s, the Smokey Awards program has been managed by the National Association of State Foresters, the Ad Council, and the USDA Forest Service. Wiles accepted the Silver Smokey award for his work in the Southeastern region at the 2022 NASF Annual Meeting in September in Stevenson, Washington.
“I am humbled by this award, and energized to continue the fire prevention crusade into the coming years as wildfire activity increases across the U.S.,” said Wiles. “This honor would have been impossible without the support and dedication of the many wildfire prevention and education team members who have served on countless assignments in Georgia and across the nation.”
Wiles was commended for using myriad communication tools while leading fire prevention teams across the country. Wiles regularly incorporates digital billboards, movie theater advertising, social media memes and strategic in-person Smokey Bear appearances to amplify wildfire prevention messages.
During a 2016 drought in North Georgia, Wiles’ team partnered with local agencies and companies to deploy new forms of prevention media to reach more diverse audiences. No human-caused wildfires occurred across the 20-county distribution area while the campaign ran.
Out west, Wiles used various print materials and digital media to reach audiences at Nevada’s “Burning Man” experience, backcountry hikers in Wyoming and people experiencing homelessness in Washington and Oregon. He has appeared in countless media interviews including two recent NPR programs.
“We must all work together to save our natural resources from destructive wildfire,” said Wiles. “Wise forest management and caution in extremely dry conditions are the keys to saving lives, property, and our natural resources.”
For more information about fire prevention strategies and work of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org.