Richard Minnich, a professor of science at University of California at Riverside, likes to play a word game that sums up how confused the general public is about wildfires. It starts with a well-known slogan.
“Smokey the Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires,’” Minnich says, then takes a pregnant pause. “Let’s change that last part. Smokey the Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent earthquakes.’ Or how about, ‘Only you can prevent tornadoes’ — except no one thinks that,” he says with a chuckle.