What is the collective noun for fire?

A ____ of fires.

To clarify: This is actually a school curriculum text question and I have never heard of such a collective noun. This is an example I can think of:

Suppose that several fires raged yesterday in the city and the newspapers wanted to say "Yesterday the fire department fought a whole bunch of fires". What word can replace "a whole bunch" in the previous statement?

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    May I also suggest "ring of fire". – Zairja Sep 8 '12 at 17:19
  • Down-vote for vagueness. – coleopterist Sep 8 '12 at 17:25
  • Do you mean ... collective noun for "fires"? A collective noun isn't something that you'd generally use with any noun in the singular. (Having said that, I don't know of any collective noun for fires; I can only think of "spate", but I don't think that's quite what you're looking for). – user16269 Sep 8 '12 at 17:44
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    I would probably use series of fires in your specific example. – Jim Sep 8 '12 at 18:22
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    Would cluster of fires or outbreak of fires work? – Spare Oom Sep 8 '12 at 18:40

I believe you are asking for a collective noun, and for fire there isn't one. You could have a "wall of fire" or "blaze of fire". What are you trying to achieve by using a collective noun here?

If there's something in particular you're trying to describe, consider a synonym: pyre, flame, conflagration and so on. Keep in mind that a construction like "pyre of fire" would be considered a pleonasm.

Based upon your edit, the nature of the question is totally different. In this case, why not go with several (your first inclination), series as Jim suggests, or any number of synonyms:

a handful of fires
a number of fires
many fires
separate fires
numerous fires

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  • Thanks Zairja. This seems to be the most appropriate advice. – Vincent Ramdhanie Sep 8 '12 at 18:40
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    I would add to this very good list a group of fires, a string of fires and a series of fires. These are not specific to fires. As you know, fires are not social enough to commonly run in packs, herds or schools. – Mike Sep 9 '12 at 21:07

For what it's worth, if there's an official word for a collection of fires, it isn't in this list.

That said, I seem to remember hearing the term rash of fires more than once. That phrase appears more than 400 times in published books, and a Google search for the exact term (in quotation marks) returns over 100,000 results, many of which are news articles.

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  • +1 From the entry for rash: a large number of instances in a short period. I've also seen a rash of infections, suicides, murders, <insert terrible event>. – Zairja Sep 8 '12 at 18:42
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    @Zairja: You mean like, "a rash of bad comments on EL&U"? :^) – J.R. Sep 8 '12 at 18:44
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    LOL, that burns (careful, you're playing with fire here). . . – Zairja Sep 8 '12 at 18:46
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    A "rash" of fires is simply descriptive, not a collective noun. It's a recurring idiom, is all. – SevenSidedDie Sep 8 '12 at 19:12
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    Rash fits perfectly: "a series of unpleasant and unexpected occurrences: a rash of forest fires". – Izkata Sep 8 '12 at 23:57

Conversely, "fire" is frequently used as a mass noun, but "a fire" refers to a discrete entity. Interestingly, "fire" as a count noun does allow cumulative reference, since if two fires join in a forest, they are referred to as one fire.

That being said, there isn't a collective noun for fire.

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  • The last sentence in your quote has a "dubious" tacked onto it in Wikipedia. At least in America, I have heard a "single fire" described in a sentence like "the fires raged". Therefore I wouldn't consider that rule conclusive. – Zairja Sep 8 '12 at 17:23
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    @Nora: Fire is a noun lying in the murky area between the concrete and the abstract. It is concrete in that it 'consists of' reacting chemicals and their combustion products, with discernible luminous energy and heat evolved. But the oxidation process and therefore the signs of burning are transient. Fire often spreads, and pockets of fire can form by splitting, they can re-join (in forests say); and, depending on the size and spacing of pockets, it would often be nonsensical to try to identify each individual one. With a Fire Department receiving different shouts, it is a different matter. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 8 '12 at 19:24
  • +1 for a forthright opinion on this. Made-up collective nouns are a blight on the English language, and it’s good to remind people that they aren’t needed. – Global Charm Feb 5 at 6:59

The textbook you’re referring to might be looking for something like blaze, conflagration, holocaust, or inferno.

Nonetheless, those are all words for a significant fire, not for some collection of several fires.

You might, however, sneak by with pyroclasm, although that is related to volcanic activity and not quite right.

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Agree with Nora - I don't think there is an official collective noun for fire can be used to describe mass and is often specified as singular were appropriate.

I can only imagine you using a collective noun for fire if you were wanting to use the flexibility of the English language to achieve a comedic twist by making one up. A smolder of fires perhaps?

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  • What do you mean that the word fire is already plural? It takes a singular verb. – tchrist Jul 10 '14 at 18:33
  • I have corrected the answer as you are right, I had described myself poorly. I intended to say that Fire can be used to describe 'many' occurrences of fire, thus in the instance of a forest fire. Which suggests a different collective noun... forest of fires anyone? – ChrisAddams Jul 10 '14 at 18:37

You could say "a sea of flames".

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  • It will be always helpful if you also tell why you think that would be a suitable and good answer. Such as a reference to previous usage or a dictionary entry, and so on. However, try not to offer personal opinion/ speculative answers in general. By the way, collective nouns are prescribed terms in English vocabulary. – Kris Dec 18 '12 at 15:32
  • However, the question is about the word "fire(s)", not about the word "flame(s)". Can we say "a sea of fires"? – herisson Feb 11 '18 at 19:50

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