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How Do Wildfires Get Their Names? The National Park Service Explains


Here in this country, we are tracking some major wildfires that are burning across the American West. And we're also tracking their names. Firefighters give names to the flames they fight, such as Blankenship, Bald Knob, Soda and Scotchmans Gulch.


A bit unusual, which made us wonder, how do wildfires get their names?

GREENE: We put that question to Betsy Haynes. She's usually a national park ranger in Virginia. But this summer, she has been spending time helping fight those fires out west.

BETSY HAYNES: Most of the time, they're named for their origin, for the area they are in.

INSKEEP: You know, like lakes or mountains or roads or towns or counties. Those are all fodder for wildfire names.

HAYNES: Just looking at the situation report for this morning, there's Chelan Complex for Washington state. There's one called Tepee Mountain, Youngs Creek. There's even one named the Horse, the Cougar, the Bobcat right now.

GREENE: But this summer, there have been so many wildfires, Haynes says officials have had moments where they can't keep up.

HAYNES: Well, something crazy happened a week or two ago. There was one named the Not Creative.

INSKEEP: The Not Creative fire in southeast Idaho. After being called out to the state's 57th fire of the season, the responders who were first on the scene just couldn't come up with a name.

GREENE: At least not a creative name, so they went with Not Creative. Emily Callihan from the Idaho Department of Land told us this was understandable. It was after a long day working on the dozens of fires already burning, and there were no easy landmarks.

EMILY CALLIHAN: Fire managers needed to start an initial attack on the fire. And because the fire needs to have an identifier, a name, they needed to have a name identified so dispatch knew where to send those resources so they could get the fire under control.

INSKEEP: We are happy to report that the Not Creative fire is now completely out. And by the way, that's actually kind of a creative name in a big way, to say that you're not feeling creative and call it the Not Creative Fire. Anyway, it's out. But there are still 76 fires burning in the western United States, such as the Rouge Fire, Mad River Complex, Solitude, Buck Horn, Lawyer Complex and more. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.