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Critics say firefighting changes slow to come since Station fire

Burned pines in Angeles National Forest. The Station fire burned more than 160,000 acres.

Foothill residents and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) criticized U.S. Forest Service officials on Thursday for taking too long to change some of their firefighting tactics in light of the devastating Station blaze.

At a packed meeting in Altadena, residents who lost their homes in the 2009 conflagration also pleaded with federal investigators to determine why the fire was allowed to escape.

"Hold people accountable," said one resident, Bert Voorhees.

Schiff convened the meeting with representatives of the Forest Service and the Government Accountability Office, which is investigating the handling of the fire.

The congressman expressed frustration with delays in a Forest Service study of whether it should launch a fleet of night-flying aircraft to battle fires.

"It has taken an unacceptably long time," Schiff said.

The Station fire was nearly extinguished on the first day, then gathered strength overnight. Air tankers ordered for 7 a.m. the next day did not arrive until hours later.

Tom Harbour, the Forest Service's head of fire and aviation, said the study on night-flying craft  should be completed in about two months. The examination has been complicated by the potential financial costs and safety concerns associated with night missions, he said.

"But I got the message," Harbour said. "They want us to move faster."

The Station blaze burned 250 square miles of Angeles National Forest, destroyed scores of homes and killed two Los Angeles County firefighters.

Stephen Gaty, an assistant director for the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, told Thursday's gathering at the Altadena Library that the probe was looking at "all phases" of the Station fire response. He said the investigation would continue until the end of the year.

The GAO inquiry grew out of a series of Times reports on the Forest Service's actions early in the fire.

RELATED:

GAO will probe Forest Service's handling of Station fire

Former Forest Service officials want a wider probe of the Station fire

Lawmakers seek broad probe into Forest Service response to Station fire

-- Paul Pringle

Photo: Burned pines in Angeles National Forest. The Station fire burned more than 160,000 acres. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

I remember the day the fire started. From my house, I saw the smoke rising, and immediately checked the CHP website. It said the location was near the fire station on the Angeles Crest Hwy. Knowing the terrain, having hiked and biked in the area for decades, I was not worried. There was little wind. The terrain drops almost straight down from the highway, and there is a fire road above the highway. I figured it would be out in about an hour. Today, it's hard for me to believe the destruction. I attribute it to the poor decisions made by the USFS, as well as local fire companies. The entire conflagration was avoidable. It takes leaders that can make quick decisions to fight a fire like that. The USFS lacks those leaders. They should be held accountable.

Hold the forest service accountable!

The USFS's repeated and catastrophe failures should disqualify that agency from being in charge of trash pickups at picnic grounds much less a fleet of night flying air tankers.

They had resources at hand that went unused in the early hours of the Station Fire when it might have mattered. To reward them with their own air force is simply madness. They didn't want CAL Fire or LACoFD's tankers, they want their own.

If Congress wants to spend money then spend it replacing the unrepentant
and completely inept management at the USFS. Then and only then might
they be able to manage our valuable natural resources.

Mr. Pringle, this is not over yet..... please dust off your typewriter.

So what the heck? Why is it that 40 people are driving National Policy regarding firefighting and night-flying aircraft? Where is the personal responsibility of the people who bought/built the houses, which they knew would risk extremely dangerous fire conditions? Why is the American taxpayer responsible for their bad investments/choices? Why do we continually allow people to rebuild homes in places where they will be inundated with debris flows and/or burned by wildfire? Why is our Congressman pursuing increased spending ($25 million) on night-flying aircraft when really we should be insisting that these people move themselves out of harm's way? Wake up tax-payers! We've got more important things to do than invest in fire-fighting policies that encourage more people to make dumb decisions.

hey tax payer... just for your information..

many of those "high risk homes" had stood for 80 years or more before this failed USFS group's mismanagement turned a 3 acre fire into a 250 sq mile disaster and cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

I agree with you that we should not give the USFS one more dime of taxpayer
money.

The "dumb decision" was to give them incident command not to have build homes in the 1920's.

About every 80 years or so, there is going to be a devastating fire in the foothills. If you don't want to get burned, don't live in a barbeque pit!

Maybe while we are not "building houses in a barbeque pit" as Steve suggests
we should consider NOT building houses in a desert that has no water.
Or do you NOT have a problem with that aspect of living in So Cal ?

It is just a little hypocritical I think.....


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