Eight-noun headline pile

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Or is it five nouns, a verb, and two more nouns? "Napa wildfire LNU Lightning Complex Gamble Hennessey Fire – August 2020", SFGate 8/18/2020.

"Napa" is the county; "wildfire" is obvious; "LNU" turns out to stand for "Lake-Napa-Unit" but the initialism is obviously a thing even if we don't know what it means; "Lightning" is what started all the fires recently in California; "Complex" might be the head of a phrase "LNU Lightning Complex" (and that turns out to be right); "Hennessey" is another proper name.

But "Gamble" puzzled me. Is it another place name, or a description of a fire-fighting tactic, or what? And what's the structure of the sequence "Napa wildfire LNU Lightning Complex Gamble Hennessey Fire"?

The story is just a series of captioned slides, in which "Gamble" doesn't occur. So that didn't help.

A bit of internet search reveals that "Gamble" is a relevant place name, or at least the name of a relevant fire:

And since the "LNU Lightning Complex" includes the "15-10 Fire" as well as the "Gamble Fire" and the "Hennessey Fire", the headline might have been "Napa wildfire LNU Lightning Complex Gamble 15-10 Hennessey Fire", which would have been even more confusing.

A screenshot of the original:

Best wishes for the evacuees and the firefighters!

[h/t John Burke]


  1. Francois Lang said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 9:59 am

    Maybe adding some punctuation might help?

    Napa wildfire: LNU Lightning Complex/Gamble/Hennessey Fire – August 2020

  2. Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 10:04 am

    I'm gonna call double nerdview on this one. "Napa wildfire" is presumably an editorial category at SFGate, and "LNU Lightning Complex" the name of a CalFire administrative unit. "Gamble Hennessy" is the name of the particular fire (or fire complex) being reported on.

  3. John Shutt said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 11:14 am

    So… the headline is basically a noun phrase? Like calling the article "Big fire", only it's made much more specific than that by a whole bunch of attributive nouns? (This I consider poor news practice; the usual principle on Wikinews is that while the title of an encyclopedia article is traditionally a noun phrase, the headline of a news article should be a sentence, the key difference being that there's a verb (preferably an active one, though occasionally it's "is/are" and gets omitted in headlinese).

  4. john burke said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 2:24 pm

    Thanks for the h/t.

    A lawyer friend reports that "FNU" (first name unknown) and "LNU" (last name unknown) are insider lingo in Alameda County police crime reports, e.g. "Subject says FNU LNU [pronounced "fanoo lanoo."] was driving the car."

  5. chris said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 4:51 pm

    Fire naming conventions are weird; I still remember the Camp Fire, which was most definitely not a campfire.

    But 15-10 seems even weirder than usual, how did it get that as a name?

  6. Ted McClure said,

    August 19, 2020 @ 9:13 pm

    "Fnu Lnu" was the name of a Viet Cong agent we tried to trace in intelligence training during the Vietnam War. She always evaded us.

    "15-10" may be a US Forest Service road number. Fire names are often taken from something in the initial report–a named location, the name of a property owner, once that I know of the name of the person making the initial report. They try to make it unique.

  7. John Swindle said,

    August 20, 2020 @ 4:21 am

    I think "lightning complex" in the word pile refers to a batch of fires believed to have been started by lightning strikes.

  8. John Swindle said,

    August 20, 2020 @ 6:13 am

    … as Professor Liberman said at the outset.

  9. Andrew Usher said,

    August 20, 2020 @ 7:34 am

    It seems the headline writer didn't even stop to think about what this was supposed to even mean, let alone whether it would communicate this to readers.

    First 'Gamble Hennessey Fire' is clearly wrong even in headlinese, you can't just blend together two names like that. And secondly, all I can get of the headline is that it alerts that there will be some kind of information given about those fires – in which case, something more informative if less specific would have served better, say 'Napa County wildfire devastation in August'.

    It seems official fire names are intended to be unique above all – consistency and clarity to outsiders are not considered.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  10. Rodger C said,

    August 20, 2020 @ 7:39 am

    My favorite was the Biscuit Fire, which sounds like a kitchen mishap.

  11. John Swindle said,

    August 20, 2020 @ 10:09 pm

    It's a list of keywords laid out as a headline.

  12. Andrew Usher said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 7:22 am

    I guess that's as good an explanation as any!

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