How do wildfires get their names?

Ever notice that wildfires seem to have generic names like the Valley Fire or seemingly random names like the Waldo Fire and wonder where wildfires get their names?

Interestingly, the answer isn’t as easy as the pre-determined alphabetical order of our Pacific and Atlantic hurricanes. Most often the name is determined by the initial attack incident commander or the fire dispatcher. The name is generally based on the geographic location of the fire or a nearby geographic feature, i.e. mountain, canyon, valley, river, etc.


For example if a new wildfire began near Green Lake, it might become the “Lake” Fire or the “Green” Fire. But, if either or both of those names were already used by the first response unit that calendar year, then the dispatcher may decide to coin the fire as the “Green Lake” Fire to be more specific, or a sequel-type name such as the “Lake 2” Fire for areas where few geographic names exist. Often seen as well are wildfire complexes. This is where multiple separate wildfires are joined into one lone-named incident for wildfire management and also financing purposes. 

Historic large wildfire data shows generic geographic names lead the way when it comes to being assigned to an event.

Top Fire Names (1895-2010)
























El Nino to Impact US this Winter

Typical weather from El Nino could help both the Northern and Southern US this winter.

Shown below are the typical weather impacts from El Nino events for the months of January through March. The looming El Nino event should bring Late 2015/Early 2016 respite to the dry Southern US and bring a temporary halt to the bitter cold winters seen in the Northern US the last couple years.


This could bring some respite to California’s bone dry areas and help restore reservoirs throughout the state.


Today’s released Wildfire Potential Outook also stressed the impact that this coming El Nino could have on the dry fuel situation throughout the West and the predicted fire potential in the coming months. Read more about that at


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Dual Tropical Storms Bear Down on Caribbean and Hawaii

Two storms, 5000 miles apart, are causing concern in each ocean.  

Tropical Storm Erika is moving west in the heart of the Caribbean Islands and is set to impact Southern Florida late this weekend and early next week. The Governor has just declared a State of Emergency in preparation for its looming landfall. The storm has already dropped heavy rains on Puerto Rico and reportedly has caused destruction and death on the small Island of Dominica. 


In the Pacific, Hurricane Ignacio is also on track for an early next week impact as it strengthens and then weakens during its approach to the Big Island of Hawaii. By Tuesday, if it stays on course, it could bring sustained winds of 85-90mph (Cat 1) to the shores of the Pacific Island Chain.


Anyone near these cones of uncertainty should be on alert for coastal watches and warnings as well as projected heavy rains, strongs winds, and deepening tidal surge. 

 *Map data provided by the National Weather Service : Central Pacfiic Hurricane Center and National Hurricane Center.

Smoky “Lid” Slowing WA Fires & Allowing Reinforcements Time to Arrive

Since recent wildfires have wreaked havoc in the Okanogan and Chelan areas, visibility has been very smoky from what fire officials on scene are calling a fire “lid”. Although this smoky “lid” has grounded aerial firefighting operations in the area, it has also kept fire activity more at bay and allowed incoming resources more time to provide reinforcements to the numerous incident management teams tasked with controlling the now over 600,000 acres that have burned in Central and Northeastern Washington.


 Hwy 97 South of Okanogan, WA. 1/4 Mile visibility Tuesday morning. (Photo Courtesy of Pat Durland, RedZone Liaison)

When the smoke eventually lifts and visibility reaches 2 miles or greater, air operations will commence. But firefighting officials have warned both the public and resources on scene that lifting smoke will also mean an increase in fire activity due to lowering humidity and rising heat. For the very large area of uncontrolled fire line and dry fuels, that could spell trouble for weeks to come.