'416,' 'Witch,' 'Not Creative': How fires get their names

Already this year, the Ute Park and the Spring Creek Fires in the US have become synonymous with ashen skies and destruction. But hidden in their names is a clue about each: their place of origin. Unlike hurricanes, wildfires are not named from a predetermined list.

They are named by officials, who choose names based on “a geographical location, local landmark, street, lake, mountain, peak, etc.,” the California department of forestry and fire protection said.

Why name a fire? Officials said coming up with a label gives firefighters another way to locate the blaze and allows officials to track and prioritise incidents by name. A Twitter hashtag that identified the devastating fires in San Diego in 2007 — #sandiegofire — proved useful as people used it to organise information about road closures and evacuations, officials said. In most cases, the dispatch centre sending the initial resources to a wildfire gets to name it, but sometimes that task falls to the first fire…

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