Early in the week of July 17, the fire that started south of Ashcroft on July 6, and which had been called the “Ashcroft Reserve fire” since its inception by the BC Wildfire Service, changed its name to the “Elephant Hill fire” (named after the prominent landmark that stands alongside Highway 97C between Ashcroft and the Trans-Canada Highway, and which suffered severe damage).
Fire information officer Max Birkner of the Kamloops Fire Centre explains why the name was changed. “When we received the [initial] call about the fire, it was named for the geographical feature [the Ashcroft Reserve] near where the fire was. But we try not to name fires after communities. The situation was very quickly developing, and that’s why it took so long to change the name.
“We don’t want to associate fire names with communities,” he continues. “Since the fire got so huge [it expanded from 2.1 hectares to 52,600 hectares], we changed the name to reflect the larger area. We really wanted a more generic geographic name, and don’t want to cause confusion about how a fire started. We would never infer blame on a certain community.
“That’s why we try to stay away from calling something the [name of community] fire. A fire in or near a community doesn’t always impact the whole community, and could have a negative impact on the community if it’s associated with a fire. We try to stay away from that.”
Birkner says that the Kamloops Fire Centre received comments that the naming convention applied to fires was not the best in this instance. “We recognized early on that it wasn’t appropriate. It’s really important for people to realize during times of crisis that misinformation explodes.”
He says that during times of crisis and confusion, people need to go to the right sources for information. “It’s always best to go to official sources before you go to various news sources or social media. So much of our job here at the Kamloops Fire Centre is rumour control. We like people to call us [at 250-554-5965].”