What’s in a Fire Name?

Aug 18, 2011

BOISE, ID. – Wildfire season is here in Idaho. That means you’re hearing a lot of different names for them, such as SouthSim and Blair.  Scott Ki talked with one man who names a lot of the fires. 

Pat Shanafelt works as a Senior Fire Dispatcher for the Boise National Forest.  He gathers a lot of information about fire and weather.  And for forty-five years, he’s been naming wildfires. 

Pat Shanafelt:  “Classically, in the Forest Service, they used to call them the “Can o’ Corn,” or some goofy thing as far as the K-rations were concerned, what the firefighters used to eat.”

Nowadays, it’s a bit more cut and dry.   For instance, the Dry Creek Fire off Bogus Basin Road. 

Pat Shanafelt:  “They’re supposed to be named after the geographic areas that they occur in. There can be some variations or combinations. Primarily we will name our’s after creeks in the area or landmarks that are visible and right there.”

Shanafelt says other fires are named after road intersections.  But, some come about because of inside jokes or nicknames. 

Pat Shanafelt:  ”They call it the Czar fire possibly because, you know, the person out there missed the fire and then found it so he was the czar as far as finding it so there’s a connotation with that.”

Shanafelt say his personal favorites are blazes named after his kids, such as the Pete Fire. 

Copyright 2011 Boise State Public Radio