Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re having our usual cool and foggy summer. But in the hotter inland and upland parts of the state, wildfire season is entering its third month. A couple of weeks ago, I drove home from Los Angeles on I-5, near where the poetically named Sand Fire was consuming more than 41,000 acres in the Santa Clarita Valley. The name suggested a hellish haboob, but in fact the fire was named for nearby Sand Canyon.
Most wildfires are named that way: after local landmarks. “The commander on the scene often uses a nearby geographical feature to describe the fire, but he's not bound by any official rules,” Daniel Engber wrote in a 2005 Slate article about fire-naming. “He first suggests a name to the interagency fire dispatcher, who passes it along in fire reports, dispatches, and so on.”
How, then, to explain the Cold Fire, which is currently raging in Napa and Yolo counties?
Cold Fire near Lake Berryessa, August 3, 2016. Photo via The (Santa Rosa) Press-Democrat.