Colorado Tourism Office Wildfire Message June 2018

Wildfire Messaging

Dear Industry Partners,

The CTO team has been working diligently in the face of the fires in the state. We wanted to send an update regarding our current messaging strategy and efforts assisting industry partners with the fires. Here is our response to date and how we are actively managing this crisis. 

Below is our current approved messaging:


Colorado is dedicating unprecedented resources toward containing the three active fires in the state. A number of state agencies are working around the clock to contain the fires that have begun at the beginning of an especially hot and arid summer season in Colorado.

Colorado is the eighth largest state in the U.S. and most of its 104,100 square miles remain unaffected by fire. The state’s two main airports, Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Airport, have experienced no flight cancellations or visibility issues. Despite the wildfires, most of the southwest area of Colorado is still open for business.

It is important to stay current on fire conditions across the state, but visitors can still expect to enjoy a memorable Colorado vacation the majority of Colorado’s destinations.

The Colorado Tourism Office is working closely with the communities being impacted by the fires. It is too early to assess the impact of the fires on Colorado’s tourism industry. All of our resources are dedicated to communicating the situation on the ground as it relates to visitors to Colorado.

Up-to-date information on location and status of the fires can be obtained via the Colorado Division of Emergency Management (; Twitter at @COEmergency) and the Inciweb Incident Information Center (

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We have inserted fire resource information on the Contact Us page of addressing the two most notable fires in Colorado. Visitors can access the above fire-related resource links at

We are working closely with the local CVBs and visitor centers. Since the start of the fires, the CTO and our PR team have been in close contact with the local areas impacted by the fires and getting regular updates. We will continue to regularly communicate with the industry partners in the effected areas and support their efforts.

We are communicating with Welcome Centers, 800-COLORADO call center and international media teams. We are providing updated statements on the fires to all consumer facing operations (i.e. Welcome Centers, call centers), as well as international PR agencies who may be receiving calls regarding the fires.

A big part of wildfire prevention is education. Below are some consumer wildfire prevention tips the team compiled and we encourage industry partners to post and communicate to visitors. As Colorado gears up for a busy summer travel season, the state urges people to travel responsibly, especially when it comes to fire prevention. Colorado’s low humidity has perks but can create dry, dangerous fire conditions. Below are tips and resources for Colorado travelers to help prevent wildfires and protect our great outdoors:

• Keep campfires small and manageable.
• Never let a fire burn unattended. 
• Properly maintain and watch campfires.
• Do not build a fire at a site in hazardous, windy or dry conditions. Check to see if campfires are permitted.
• Do not build a fire if the campground, area or event rules prohibit campfires.  Check with the campground or forest representative.
• Use an existing fire ring or fire pit. If there is not an existing fire pit, and pits are allowed, look for a site that is at least fifteen feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also beware of low-hanging branches overhead. 
• Supervise children and pets when they are near fire.
• Never cut live trees or branches for fires.
• Fire restrictions and bans are set by local jurisdictions and by individual forest agencies.  Check with the local sheriff’s office, fire department or the federal forest agency before lighting a campfire this summer.
• If you think it isn’t safe enough to light a campfire — choose to be safe and not start one.
• Properly extinguish and dispose of cigarettes.
• When putting out a fire, water it until you can handle the embers.

Extinguish your campfire properly by following these steps from Smokey Bear and US Forest Service:

1.  Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
2.  Pour lots of water on the fire, drown all the embers, not just the red ones.
3.  Pour until hissing sound stops.
4.  Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
5.  Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
6.  Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch.
7. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Remember: Do not bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.

In Times of Crisis: 6 Key Tips

While we distributed the below a few weeks ago, we thought now might be a good time to re-send our six key tips for managing crisis situations. We invite you to share these tips with your local industry partners and tourism related-organizations.

1. Tell the Truth. Transparency is vital to an organization’s credibility. Some think they can “spin” the situation to avoid telling the real story, but the truth never catches up with the lie.

2. Know When To Respond. Every situation is different, but typically there is a point when a crisis reaches a tipping point and a response is required. When a crisis arises, there is pressure to respond immediately. However, one should never respond to a crisis without carefully accessing the situation and having a plan in place. It is vital to assign team members to gather information on the ground, create messaging/draft statements, and formulate a plan of action for a response. If a proactive response is warranted, the action should be taken immediately so that the public and the media don’t assume the organization is trying to avoid the situation.

3. Dedicate a Media Spokesperson. You cannot control a crisis, but you can manage it. For crises that impact tourism, it is critical to either identify a lead spokesperson with media-facing experience or invest in media training for a senior member of your organization. It is a strong investment that can have unlimited return. It is vital to identify an authoritative figure who can communicate with the media and facilitate accurate and fair reporting, while simultaneously communicating key strategic messages.

4. Identify Media Sources. During a crisis, reporters will look to interview many different individuals to gather quotes that will help frame the story. More importantly, a reporter will keep attempting to reach potential sources until they find someone who will support their story. This is why it is imperative early on in a crisis to communicate your organization’s key messages to your constituents and industry partners and “speak with one voice”. It is best to encourage that inquiries are routed to a lead spokesperson, but when media want to talk to those on the frontline (and they likely will) it is helpful to provide them with key messages. This way, if contacted by the media, they will be prepared to answer specific questions while simultaneously communicating the broader strategic messaging.

5. Don’t Write Headlines for the Media. There are officials who will give regular emergency or operational updates to the media. Think: emergency management personnel, local police and fire departments, etc. Meet with these individuals to stress that, while updates should be accurate and factual, they should be careful not to use language that can easily be taken out of context. For example, last year, the Today Show used a headline (“fire of epic proportions”) after hearing a local fire official use the term during a media briefing on a wildfire.

6. A Picture Says a Thousand Words. Images reported by the media can be damaging to public perception. However, if the situation in your area is different than what the media is reporting, the best weapon you have is the truth. Be sure to share real-time content (images and video) via your social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, and encourage your followers to share this content with their networks. You should also take advantage of the Colorado Tourism Office’s social media resources. With sizable social media audiences, we can help communicate the real situation on the ground when what is being reported is less than accurate.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us. We fully support the areas affected by the fires and, as always, these communities can count on our full support through this difficult time.


The CTO Team

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