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Feds’ firefighting tactics under fire

Local county supervisor blasts U.S. Forest Service for Station Fire strategy

Posted: November 13, 2009 10:32 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich on Friday scolded U.S. Forest Service officials for grounding aircraft during the early stages of the Station Fire, which scorched 160,000 acres, destroyed 100 homes and killed two Los Angeles County firefighters.

"The Forest Service conclusion that aircraft use in the Station Fire's earliest stage would have been ineffective is a false assertion to justify their failure," said Michael Antonovich, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor. "Our Los Angeles County fire fighting aircraft sat on the tarmac waiting to be called into action, while the Angeles National Forest burned."

Forest Service officials declined to comment.

The Fifth District encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley, as well as the Acton, Agua Dulce, La Canada-Flintridge and Altadena, which were hit hard by the Station Fire.

The Station Fire broke out on Aug. 26. The blaze raged for more than a month and led to the deaths of two Los Angeles County firefighters. Investigators have determined arson caused the fire.

Antonovich's statement came after the Forest Service, which was in charge of firefighting operations, issued its Fire and Aviation Management Station Fire Initial Attack Review.

In the report, Forest Services officials said that aircraft were not deployed to attack the fire due to limited visibility. The Forest Service also said air attack alone would have been ineffective in fighting the fire.

Antonovich blasted the Forest Service for this claim and said if air attack had been used, the Station Fire would have wrought less havoc.

"Had the County's Fire Air Support been fully activated by the Forest Service while the fire was still manageable, it would not have spread into a 160,000-plus acre disaster taking the lives of two firefighters and destroying over 100 homes and structures," he said.

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