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How do wildfires get their names?

Typically they are named after nearby landmarks, but that's not always the case.

PORTLAND, Ore — Multiple wildfires are burning across Oregon and Washington right now, including the Bootleg, Darlene, Grandview and Bruler Fires. 

The sometimes unusual names have raised the question: How do wildfires get their names? 

Unlike hurricanes, which are named in the order they form based on a predetermined list of names made years in advance, wildfires are named after they spark. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), local officials typically name a fire, either the dispatchers who send the initial crews to respond or the crews themselves. Most agencies have policies that wildfires should be named after nearby landmarks, including geographical locations or street names. 

Sometimes the names are fairly obvious, such as the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire that burned through the Columbia River Gorge, which started along the Eagle Creek Trail. 

RELATED: Bootleg Fire burns 21 homes and 54 other structures

As for the fires burning in Oregon this year, the Darlene Fire near La Pine is burning near a road named Darlene Way, and the Bruler Fire burning south of Detroit appears to be named after a stream called Bruler Creek. Southern Oregon's Bootleg Fire, according to the Forest Service, was named after Bootleg Spring in the area. 

The NIFC also has guidelines for what should not be included in a fire name, including naming a fire after a person, private property or company, using the phrase "Dead Man" or "Deadman," in the name, or naming a fire after another catastrophic fire or a public event that could cause confusion, like "Eclipse" or "Super Bowl." The agency also cautions against using any cute or funny names, including plays on words.

"What may be funny to one person or group may not be to another," the NIFC wrote. 

When two or more fires merge and become a single incident, those are referred to by the U.S. Forest Service as a "complex" and are often renamed when they join under one command. 

Naming a fire doesn't always come easily. In 2015, a fire in southeast Idaho was named the "Not Creative Fire." As the story goes, there weren't any well-known landmarks nearby to name the fire after and crews on scene had already responded to so many fires that summer, they were out of ideas. Needing a name so dispatch knew where to send crews, they dubbed the fire—and themselves—"Not Creative."

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