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A rose is a rose, but a wildfire by any other name baffles

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By Daniel Laverty

What’s in a name? In the case of last week’s wildfire near Pine, a lot of confusion.

When the Chair Rock Fire underwent a name change and became the Lime Gulch Fire on June 19, residents 900 miles away might have been a little worried: Lime Gulch is a valley in Montana. But in Lion Gulch, here in Jeffco, the fire burned 511 acres in rugged terrain south of Conifer.

“Things really started picking up on (June 19), but the Lime Gulch Fire was originally reported and responded to on (June 18),” said Ricardo Zuniga, spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.

Zuniga said the wildfire stayed small on its first night, but when it started acting up the next day, the North Fork Fire Department responded and named it the Chair Rock Fire. 

“Usually fires are named after geographical points for location reference,” Zuniga said. “Dispatch already had coordinates on record for the Lime Gulch Fire from the night before, and that’s why Chair Rock was changed back to Lime Gulch.”

On June 19, the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office had already sent evacuation orders regarding the Chair Rock Fire. News outlets started reporting on the Chair Rock Fire. Facebook and Twitter already had #ChairRockFire “trending.”

So when Chair Rock was changed to Lime Gulch, it created confusion.

On Twitter, people didn’t know if the Lime Gulch Fire was a new fire or even where Lime Gulch is. County dispatch, Jeffco deputies and firefighters realized that the blaze should have been called Lion Gulch, after the trail in the Pike National Forest where the blaze was burning.

But with everyone coming to terms with the new title, would another name change just multiply the confusion?

“I think everyone just decided to keep it named the Lime Gulch Fire to avoid further confusion,” said Chris Barth, spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team B. 

Zuniga said fires occasionally are named incorrectly, but that there’s usually time to correct the mistake before a blaze grows and news stations start reporting.

“Five or 10 years ago, we never had to deal with anything like this,” Zuniga said. “Social media has allowed information to travel so fast.”

So Lime Gulch, which sounds more like a great place to get margaritas, should have been called Lion Gulch.

“The words ‘lion’ and ‘lime’ sound the same,” Zuniga said. “I can see where the confusion came from over the radio or the phone. Lime, Lion — I’m even confusing myself now.

“I don’t care what a fire’s name is,” he said. “Let’s just put the fire out.”

 

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.