Jul 25, 2022 - News

How wildfires get their names

Illustration of the Texas flag, with fire replacing the bottom red stripe.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Roughly 600,000 acres have burned in Texas in 2022 so far — and we couldn't help but wonder how some of the biggest blazes end up with their own names.

Driving the news: Last week, firefighters worked over a dozen wildfires across the state. Many of them are still burning.

  • The Chalk Mountain fire near Glen Rose burned over 6,700 acres and was 10% contained as of Sunday night.
  • The 1148 fire at Possum Kingdom Lake, northwest of Tarrant County, has burned over 450 acres. The fire was mostly contained as of Sunday night.

The intrigue: Unlike with hurricanes, the names of big fires don't come from a pre-set running list, the Texas A&M Forest Service tells Axios.

  • First responders usually get to name the fire, and they often go with the closest geographic location or landmark.

Details: The Chalk Mountain and 1148 fires were named after local landmarks.

  • Chalk Mountain is an area of Erath County that was named after an elevated area with white rock. The community once had a post office and two businesses, but it's now considered a ghost town because of its small population.
  • The 1148 fire refers to FM 1148, which traces Possum Kingdom Lake.

Yes, but: Not every wildfire gets a name.

  • The forest service says that in regions like East Texas, where wildfires are frequent, firefighters wait until a blaze has burned over 100 acres of timber and over 300 acres of grass before giving it a proper name.
  • Otherwise, the fire's name = the originating county's name + an auto-generated number.

Threat level: Most of Texas, including North Texas, remains under an outdoor burn ban due to drought conditions and "critical fire weather," per the Texas A&M Forest Service.

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