'Doritos Ranch Flavored' Wildfire? Officials share how wildfires are named

"We try to make them unique instead of saying the same location over and over again" National Agency Fire Center spokesperson Candy Stevenson said

By Mari Pressley
The Charlotte Observer

ANTIOCH, N.C. — A Reddit user recently asked why someone was allowed to name North Carolina wildfires.

“OK, who is letting their teenager name wildfires in North Carolina? I mean, it isn’t a big fire, but seriously,” the user wrote, including a screenshot of a wildfire near Antioch, NC, titled “Doritos Ranch Flavored” for reference.

“In this instance, the first responder on site was either eating Doritos or had some close by. There was a Doritos Cool Ranch bag of chips in his eyesight when he arrived on scene.” Phillip Jackson, spokesperson for NC Forest Service, told The Charlotte Observer.

Jackson said first responders were “just lacking creativity.”

In NC Forest Service’s Wildfire Public Viewer, you can find wildfire names like “Brake Shoes,” “War Horse” and “Deep Hole.”

While major storms and disasters like hurricanes are given titles, wildfire names are generally “just something to reference that instead of the use of maybe a number or something that people wouldn’t have a hard time to remember,” Candy Stevenson, a spokesperson for the National Agency Fire Center said.

It is an often occurrence for first responders to look in unconventional places for unique names.

Stevenson said during her time in Florida, there was an incident called the “Left Boot Fire” because “someone walked up on the scene, and there was just someone’s left boot sitting there. It was just randomly on the ground or something.”

Can citizens name wildfires?

“We don’t take inputs from citizens,” Jackson said.

Typically, wildfires are named by the first responders who were on the scene.

“In our case, part of our initial attack, it’s usually a county ranger or an assistant county ranger or one of our equipment operators,” Jackson said.

There are “three to five or six people in each county that are part of that initial attack,” she said.

With public safety as a top priority, names are usually a result of a quick reaction from first responders so that staff and firefighters arriving at the scenes know what the fire means. It’s “a quick oh, we need to put this in the system. So everyone knows where it is and what we’re doing. And then we are actively working on the wildfire.”

Are there standards for naming wildfires?

The “Doritos Ranch Flavored” wildfire title is not only peculiar because of its length, but it also goes against one of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Data Standards for incident names because of its use of a brand name.

Here are acceptable and unacceptable NWCG wildfire naming protocols.


  • Names should reference the area or location of an incident.

  • Names should be unique.

  • Names should be concise.

  • Names should reflect “professionalism, sensitivity, good taste, and common sense.”

Not acceptable:

  • Names should not include words “associated with personal or protected information.”

  • Names should not be “named after private property, a business or commercial entity, organization, brand, product or anything protected by a trademark or copyright.”

  • Names should not “identify responsible parties or imply culpability or liability.”

How are wildfires named?

Generally, wildfires are named based on distinguishable geographical markers like landmarks or icons that are well known to the area.

According to Stevenson, naming wildfires after geographic locations or nearby landmarks “kind of lets everybody have an idea of where it is.”

This could sometimes mean wildfires are simply named after a nearby street. “We try to make them unique instead of saying the same location over and over again,” Stevenson said.

Jackson said the approval process “starts off at the county level with the additional tag that first responds to the incident. And then it goes through the county office and the district office.”

Once the fire has been suppressed and the documentation has been finalized and submitted, it goes through an approval process where names are officially assigned.

However, NC Forest Service doesn’t plan on having the “Doritos Ranch Flavored” name stick around for too long, particularly “because of its goofy nature,” Jackson said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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