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Hearing sheds light on Station Fire response

October 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Telling testimony during the Station Fire congressional panel on Tuesday shed new light on what firefighters could have done differently to stop last year's massive blaze.Five members of Congress heard testimony from U.S. Forest Service officials as well as retired fire personnel offering their expertise.

The panel heard 11 testimonies, including one from a resident, who is also a retired Pasadena firefighter, who lost his home in the disastrous blaze.

The Station Fire is the largest in Los Angeles County's history, scorching 250 square miles, destroying more than 200 structures including 89 homes and killing two firefighters trying to protect their mountain camp.

The U.S. Forest Service has come under criticism for the initial attack on the blaze. The Government Accountability Office is now investigating the events surrounding the fire response and whether or not efforts to save money may have delayed the deployment of critical resources.

Forest Service officials have denied that budget restraints did not affect their response to the fire.

Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron testified before the panel that just after midnight on Aug. 27, the second day of the Station Fire, spot fires began burning including one that was in very steep terrain. Noiron said the incident commander ordered additional water dropping aircraft for that morning.

The panel also heard testimony from a retired Forest Service employee, who said he has information that a crew flying a Martin-Mars air tanker had offered to drop its load on the Station Fire at around 6 p.m. on the first day of the blaze but they were told they were not needed.

The crew ended up dropping their water load elsewhere. That aircraft was in the air because the Morris Fire was already burning in the Angeles National Forest.

Members of Congress listened to the testimony to get a better understanding of what all agencies involved, on local and federal levels, can all do together to try and prevent another similar disaster from happening.

La Canada Flintridge residents are still dealing with the catastrophic fire's aftermath. Facing the rainy season, more K-rails and sandbags will be installed along Ocean View Boulevard on Tuesday to steer potential mudflow away from homes.

The Station Fire burned parts of La Canada Flintridge and left hillsides vulnerable. Runoff last winter caused major damage to homes in the Paradise Valley neighborhood.

Los Angeles County has expanded six debris basins in the foothills to better handle debris flows that are expected again this year in the Station Fire burn areas. The runoff danger is an issue that foothill residents will likely be dealing with for another five years.


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