Naming Wildfires

By Beacon Staff

Wildfires are no laughing matter.

And yet…when it’s all you read about on the front page of every newspaper in the state, and it’s all you breathe, it’s hard not to turn some aspects of the wildfire phenomena over in your mind a little – like how they receive their names.

On his Flathead Memo blog, James Conner explains that fires get their names based on the nearest notable geographic feature from which they originate. Hence, the scary but mind-numbingly boring name for the Mile Marker 124 fire near Missoula.

There HAD to be a more notable geographic feature for that one. It’s pretty close to the Testicle Festival, why not call it the “Drunken Biker” fire?

Though Conner also explains the efforts of the DNRC to rename fires that might, for whatever reason, elicit a name that could even be mistaken as off-color, like when the agency recently changed the name of the Semem Creek Fire to Chippy Creek.

On second thought, maybe the wildfire-naming system does work better than other catastrophe-naming systems – like devastating hurricanes that damage homes and cities as well as creating a negative association for everyone who shares a name with it.

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