News release: DNR employee receives Smokey Bear Award

November 9, 2023

Recipient chosen for dedication, success in wildfire prevention

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is honored to announce Vikki Olsen, an office and administrative specialist with the DNR’s Forestry Division, is a 2023 recipient of a national Bronze Smokey Bear Award.

The Smokey Bear Awards are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire prevention. Bronze awards are presented each year to organizations or individuals making an impact within a state. The Smokey Bear Awards also include golden awards for national work and silver awards for regional work. Olsen accepted the award at the National Association of State Foresters annual meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in September.

Olsen was selected for her work at the DNR bringing wildfire prevention to thousands of Minnesotans each year. She enthusiastically coordinates wildfire prevention activities and education events including Smokey Bear appearances at schools, parades, fire departments and other community events across five counties.

According to the award letter, Olsen stood out for her innovation when she arranged “drive-by” events at schools in 2021, when in-person events were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local DNR staff and Smokey Bear drove past schools in their wildland fire engines and dropped off wildfire prevention materials for each student. In 2022, she exceeded pre-pandemic engagement levels by organizing 26 events that connected with nearly 9,500 people.

The national Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Committee, which selected Olsen for the award, noted that her "leadership has allowed the (DNR) to reach a larger and broader audience across an area of high-risk wildfire communities. Her work has become a model for the entire (DNR) on how to develop an effective wildfire prevention outreach program."

The Smokey Bear Awards have been around since 1957. Nominations from around the country are considered by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Committee, made up of representatives from the three sponsoring agencies: the National Association of State Foresters, U.S. Forest Service, and the Ad Council.

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