Dump Fire name sparks protest, examination of procedure

2012-10-14T00:25:00Z 2013-01-08T10:51:03Z Dump Fire name sparks protest, examination of procedureCaleb Warnock - Daily Herald Daily Herald
October 14, 2012 12:25 am  • 

Weeks after the fire is out, a new fire of sorts has flared in Saratoga Springs about how the unfortunately monikered Dump Fire got its name.

Saratoga Springs officials and residents are not happy to say the least that the fire over Alpine got the picturesque name of Quail Fire while their fire got something, er, a touch less elegant. And it does not help that dump has scatological connotations too.

"I'm actually ticked they called it the Dump Fire," said Saratoga Springs city manager Mark Christensen.

He protested the name immediately upon arriving at the command center, but was told it could not be changed.

"The answer I was given is that fires get named based on where they start," he said. "Ours started in the county by an old dump. Someone else gave it the name. As a city we were frustrated by it. That is certainly not the image and marketing we are trying to project for our city."

Having made their feelings known, the city expects that a similar name will not happen again -- anywhere.

"Obviously they have that on their radar as far as the implications of them assigning names like that," he said. "I would certainly hope that they have that checked box taken care of in the future. We hope they have heard our concern."

Longtime Saratoga resident Melody Johnson said she was unhappy with the name "right away, but I didn't become as indignant until I realized we were on the national news. Our city, which is a really nice little city, is suddenly associated with a dump."

Something is wrong when a statistically wealthy city like Alpine gets its fire named Quail while Saratoga Springs gets Dump. Saratoga Springs has fought negative images for years, she said. Old-timers in Lehi sometimes still refer to the city as the boonies, a place where mosquitoes are sure to eat you alive, she said.

"There is still a stigma," said Johnson. "They say there are mosquitoes overwhelming us and who would be stupid enough to move out here?"

The Dump Fire association only plays into those stereotypes.

"It is unfair," she said.

What should the fire have been named?

"The Beautiful Lakeview Fire," she said.

Who named the fire? No one was anxious to take credit.

Kevin Pfister of the Forest Service said that agency had nothing to do with it. And while fires are usually named for a nearby geographic feature, he acknowledged that isn't always appropriate. For example, he said, there is a wash near Moab named on maps as the Negro Bill Wash. But if the Forest Service were to fight a fire in that area, they would not name it the Negro Bill Fire for obvious reasons, he said.

Teresa Rigby of the Bureau of Land Management said her agency did not choose the name. State and federal officials did not arrive at the scene until more than an hour after local firefighters, which means local firefighters named the blaze. She said she had heard anecdotally that an Eagle Mountain firefighter named the fire. But she cautioned against pointing fingers. Whoever named the fire was following standard procedure and was focused on saving lives.

"They don't mean any slight when a fire is named," she said. "Someone names the fire and gets on with their business because they are trying to fight a fire, not think about things like that. The local fire departments were doing a dang good job, and they just picked something local to name it. Maybe this is something the local fire departments will look at if people are not happy."

It should also be noted that once a fire is named, the official policy is never to rename it, because changing the name while trying to dispatch help could cause confusion, delay response time, and even put firefighters in danger of being in the wrong place, she said.

Fionnuala Kofoed, spokeswoman for Eagle Mountain, confirmed their firefighters had named the blaze. Eagle Mountain fire officials have since spoken to Saratoga Springs about their concerns, but Eagle Mountain emphasized the name was chosen according to standard procedure.

"They didn't realize at that point how big the fire was going to be," she said, noting that firefighters were simply doing their job.

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