How Do California Fires Get Their Names?

The Camp Fire didn't come from a campfire, just like San Diego's Witch Fire didn't come from magic.

If the Camp Fire didn’t come from a campground, how did it get its name?

The devastating blaze in Butte County, some 175 miles northeast of San Francisco, was ultimately dubbed Camp Fire for originating on Camp Creek Road. It also started on Pulga Road near Jarbo Gap, which could have conceivably become synonymous with the deadliest fire in California, killing at least 79 people and destroying more than 12,600 homes as of Tuesday.

Typically, the dispatch center sending first responders pick from names like these but the first officials on the scene can also name the fire, according to Cal Fire. Geographical origin, nearby landmarks, mountain, lake, street, and other identifiers help firefighters get on the same page in an emergency.

“Quickly naming the fire provides responding fire resources with an additional locator, and allows fire officials to track and prioritize incidents by name,” the agency writes.

Another fire causing mayhem in California is the Woolsey Fire, which didn’t get its name from its immediate street intersection but from its proximity to Woolsey Canyon near Simi Valley. The blaze is 96 percent contained but killed three people and destroyed 1,500 structures, Cal Fire reports Tuesday.

Perhaps Pulga Fire or Jarbo Fire wouldn’t have quite fit the serious nature of fires but they would be far from the first. A 2007 fire in the San Diego area known as Witch Creek, which lent inspiration for its spooky name of Witch Fire.

It surely doesn’t help dispel the negative associations toward witches that two people died, 40 firefighters were injured, and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed.

Catchy names can swing the other way, like the Not Creative Fire in Idaho. With tired firefighters responding to the state’s 57th fire that season and no landmarks nearby, the 2015 fire became one for the books, NPR reports.

Other times, it just comes down to a number if it’s in the same location. Colorado firefighters put out the 416 fire in June, which was the 416th incident — which includes false alarms — reported for the San Juan National Forest.

Hopefully, California fires won’t simply come down to a number in the future.

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