Orange County review panel says errors were made in response for Canyon Fire 2

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- By the time firefighters were able to put out October's Canyon Fire 2, 25 structures had burned and another 55 were damaged.

Angry residents began asking why the Orange County Fire Authority wasn't able to stop the flames before they spread out of control.

"Sincerely not a day goes by that we don't think about how we could have done a better job than that response," said Dave Anderson, with the fire authority.

That's what an independent review panel spent the last four months thinking about. Its three members determined mistakes were made, including mishandled reports that a fire had been spotted in the hills.

More than an hour was wasted before a full response was ordered.

"With a 71-minute delay, one can only speculate what the outcome would be. But we do know that it should have happened at 8:32," said Bill Bamattre, a review board member.

Another issue the panel investigated was a complaint that a police chopper reported a spot fire the day before the Canyon Fire 2 broke out. But that was determined to not have played a significant role.

The morning of the fire crews from the fire station closest to the flames had been sent to fight a blaze in Northern California. Investigators determined that played little role in the response to the Canyon Fire 2.

But Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer questions the panel's findings. He said fire officials dropped the ball during a red flag warning.

"There was 40-mile an hour winds in this corridor and there was no one in the area monitoring flare-ups," he said.

He added the independent review was not independent at all. That remark sparked an angry response from the Board of the Orange County Fire Authority.

"At no time over the past few months did Supervisor Spitzer ask any questions or raise any concerns that this investigation was in any way compromised or unduly influenced...It is simply unconscionable that he would make these assertions," a statement said, in part.

The panel also addressed a longstanding dispute between the fire authority and the Orange County Sheriff's Department over helicopter duties and responsibilities. The acting fire chief said both sides are working to improve relations.
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