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Wildfire names typically based on their location

We have lived in California for 60 years and 15 years in Southern Oregon. We know most of the areas in both states. Who comes up with the names of the fires? The Thomas fire or Creek fire tell nothing about location.

— Jerry K., Eagle Point

Well, Jerry, even a truly prolific familiarity with California geography is bound to exclude a few places. As it turns out, the Thomas fire is, in fact, named after a place.

What has become the third-largest wildfire in modern California history started Dec. 4, near Thomas Aquinas College, north of Santa Paula. So the firefighters named it the Thomas fire. As of Monday, the fire churning through brush in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has burned more than 1,000 structures, including at least 750 homes, according to The Associated Press. Some 18,000 more residences are still threatened. The 422-square-mile blaze is 45 percent contained.

Location-based naming is the typical practice for wildfires, as it helps first responders easily locate and track the fire. However, firefighters are allowed to name fires whatever they choose, at the discretion of captains and dispatchers, and sometimes it's necessary to get more creative if the location-based name would be too similar to another fire. So there have been some strange outliers.

Perhaps the most frequently cited example of how loose the rules are for naming a fire is the 2015 Idaho blaze that firefighters dubbed the Not Creative Fire.

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