Wildfire prevention turned into a game by Malheur County artist

Artist Sandy Micheli and Smokey Bear prop up Micheli’s newly-painted cornhole boards commissioned by the Vale BLM advocating for wildfire prevention on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (ANGELINA KATSANIS/The Enterprise)

VALE – Cornhole isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering fire prevention, but workers at the Vale BLM worked with local artist Sandy Micheli to spread awareness of wildfires in a fun way.

“We’re just trying to find new and creative ways to educate people, both young and old,” said Al Crouch, BLM fire information officer.

The cornhole boards will be on display to play during the Malheur County Fair, which runs from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 31. The BLM will house it at their site and plans to bring it to other public events as they come up.

Micheli painted “DROWN YOUR FIRE” on each of the two game boards with a campfire painted around the holes. Beanbags are in shades of blue to symbolize putting out the fire with water when a person tosses one into the hole.

The board also has intricate forest scenery and animals on the rest of the surface. Micheli said it took about a month to paint.

The cornhole boards in Micheli’s front patio in Vale before they were taken to Vale BLM. (ANGELINA KATSANIS/The Enterprise)

In the game, there are two teams and points are calculated based on if the player threw the bag into the hole, if it landed on the surface of the board, or if they missed. The rules are simple, but the competition can get exciting, making it a great game for community and interaction.

Since Oregon’s wildfire season is arriving, fire safety is more important than ever. In the face of Covid, many people bought RVs and other camping gear that they are making good use of. This surge in outdoor recreation brings increased risks.

“Ever since the spike, we’ve seen a lot more unattended or abandoned campfires,” Crouch said. “I think the folks at the BLM are really going to appreciate and enjoy this.”

Micheli is a member of the artist co-op the House that Art Built in Ontario and often showcases her paintings and sculptures there. Crouch said Micheli seemed perfect for the educational game work since she is well known for her scenery work and gourd animal sculptures of animals.

Working from home since the beginning of the pandemic, Micheli is looking forward to return to teaching art classes part-time at Treasure Valley Community College in the fall.

Smokey Bear takes a toss to test out the new cornhole boards and attempts to “drown the fire” with the blue beanbag on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (ANGELINA KATSANIS/The Enterprise)

News tip? Contact multimedia journalist Angelina Katsanis at [email protected]

Instagram: @akatsmedia, @malheurenterprise


Take one action today to help the Enterprise grow and do more for the community through accurate, fair reporting.

SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription is $5 a month.

GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.

ONE-TIME PAYMENT: Contribute, knowing your support goes towards more local journalism you can trust.