'When I smelled that smoke ... here we go again': Weary Californians seek shelter amid latest wildfire outbreak
Chased from their homes, California wildfire evacuees take refuge at Red Cross shelters and wonder if they should stay or if they should go.A helicopter drops water as the Getty Fire burns on Mandeville Canyon Monday, Oct. 28, in Los Angeles.
Just this week, wildfires in California such as the Kincade Fire, the Getty Fire and the Easy Fire have all wreaked havoc across the state, scorching thousands of acres and forcing widespread evacuations.
But where do these names come from?
Unlike hurricanes, which get their names from a predetermined list of names prepared years in advance, wildfire names are created on the spot when the blaze begins.
Fires typically are named by the dispatch center that sends the first responders to the fire, though sometimes they are named by the first firefighters on the scene, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Kincade fire stokes anxiety and a frightening sense of déjà vu among weary residents
Laila Salonga watched the news closely, waiting for word on whether her neighborhood in Santa Rosa would be evacuated. Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the state.
Cal Fire said that “quickly naming the fire provides responding fire resources with an additional locator, and allows fire officials to track and prioritize incidents by name."
A fire truck heads towards flames during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, Calif. on Oct. 24, 2019. Fueled by high winds, the Kincade Fire has burned over 7,000 acres in a matter of hours and has prompted evacuations in the Geyserville area.
A firefighter monitors the Kincade Fire as it burns through the area on Oct. 24, 2019 in Geyserville, Calif. The fire broke out in spite of rolling blackouts by utility companies in both northern and Southern California.
Residents monitor conditions as the Kincade Fire approaches in unincorporated Somoma County, Calif., near Geyserville on Oct. 24, 2019. Their home remains without power as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut utilities to prevent wildfires from sparking during dry and windy conditions.
A sign at the entrance of the drive-thru at Starbucks warns customers the store is closed due to a power outage in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 24, 2019. The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut power to 17 counties in Northern California to help prevent wildfires caused by downed power lines.
LA County Fire work a house fire at a home on Sequoia Road in Santa Clarita, Calif., as pictures lay on the lawn during the Tick fire on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. An estimated 50,000 people were under evacuation orders in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles as hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at up to 50 mph drove the flames into neighborhoods.
Firefighters try to put out a residence fire caused by a wildfire Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. An estimated 50,000 people were under evacuation orders in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles as hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at up to 50 mph drove the flames into neighborhoods.
Mary, no last name given, sits on her wheelchair next to her dog Manny, outside of the gym at West Ranch High School after being evacuated from the Tick Fire Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif.
A building stands burned by the Tick Fire with charred landscape in the distance on Oct. 25, 2019 in Canyon Country, California. The fire has burned 4,300 acres thus far with around 40,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders.
Inmate firefighters march past an American flag, while led by a fire captain, as they work to put out hot spots from the Tick Fire on Oct. 25, 2019 in Canyon Country, Calif. The fire has blackened 4,300 acres thus far with around 40,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders. The inmates are from one of the 44 state prison fire camps, where inmates perform firefighting duties during the wildfire season, for credit for early release and minimal pay.
The Getty Fire burned right to the edge of Mt. St. Mary’s University where students were evacuated in the early morning hours of the fire. The Getty fire started along the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 28, 2019.
This undated handout image courtesy of NASA and taken by astronaut Andrew Morgan aboard the International Space Station, shows smoke from the Kincade Fire (R) in Sonoma County, northern Calif. San Francisco is at left.
Firefighters battle wind-whipped flames engulfing multiple homes during the Hillside Fire in the North Park neighborhood of San Bernardino, Calif. on Oct. 31, 2019.
The name comes from a geographical location, local landmark, street, lake, mountain, peak, etc., Cal Fire reported.
What’s driving the historic California high wind events, and worsening the wildfires
Powerful, dry, downsloping winds responsible for the California wildfires can be traced to the Great Basin region.This is the third year in row that these winds — known in the San Francisco Bay region as “Diablo Winds” and Santa Ana winds in southern California — have fanned devastating blazes in the Golden State, raising fears that these fiery sieges are part of a new normal. Evidence continues to mount that climate change is making their effects worse.
For example, the Carr Fire, which destroyed 1,000 homes and killed eight people near Redding, California, before reaching full containment in August 2018, got its name not for the flat tire that sparked it but for nearby Carr Powerhouse Road, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
Investigation: Where will the West's next deadly wildfire strike? The risks are everywhere
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are some fire names that should be avoided. This includes naming a fire after a person, private property or a company, or naming a fire after another catastrophic fire (one that experienced fatalities or high property losses, for instance).
This is similar to how hurricane names are "retired" if they caused devastating damage or destruction. For example, there will never again be another Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, both of which had their names retired due to the historic devastation they caused.
Fire breaks out along 405 Freeway at Getty Center; structures burn, widespread evacuations ordered
A growing brush fire was threatening hundreds of homes in Brentwood and other Westside hillside communities, burning several structures and prompting widespread evacuations. The fire broke out along the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center and was spreading to the south and west. The mandatory evacuation zone was described by fire officials as a box: Mulholland Drive on the north side, the 405 on the east, Sunset Boulevard on the south and Mandeville Canyon Road on the west.Mount St. Mary's University was surrounded by flames and was being evacuated.Fire officials advised residents outside the mandatory zone but in the area to prepare to evacuate.
In addition, the fire center recommends against using cute or funny fire names, or using a play on words to name a fire: "What may be funny to one person or group may not be to another," the agency said.
Fire science: Infamous 'Diablo' winds are fueling fierce northern California wildfires. So, what are they?
Sometimes a fire can have two names: One of the worst wildfire disasters in U.S. history, a 1994 blaze that killed 14 firefighters, has become known as the Storm King Fire after the mountain where the crew died. But, officially, the blaze was known as the South Canyon Fire.
Some names are rather whimsical: “You could have a fire by a landfill – and they might call it the Dump Fire,” Heather Williams, a Cal Fire spokeswoman told the New York Times. “Sometimes the names come through and it’s like, ‘Really guys?’”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Easy, Getty and Kincade fires are ravaging California. So how did wildfires get named?
California wildfires erupt in LA, burn in wine country .
Firefighters battled destructive wildfires north of San Francisco and in western neighborhoods of Los Angeles on Monday, trying to beat back flames that forced thousands to flee their homes. Easing winds offered a chance of improved conditions for firefighters trying to control a huge fire in Sonoma County wine country north of San Francisco, but forecasters warned that another round of strong wind gusts could hit the area on Tuesday.