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Feds to look into Station Fire

Secrecy by Forest Service prompts watchdog group to investigate

Posted: September 8, 2010 8:26 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2010 4:30 a.m.

This file photo shows the charred remains of a home caught in the path of the Station Fire, which burned approximately 170,000 acres, destroyed more than 100 homes and killed two Los Angeles County firefighters after it erupted August 26, 2009.

 

After months of scrutiny, a federal watchdog agency will launch a probe into the 2009 Station Fire to determine if the U.S. Forest Service withheld information that could shine light on the early handling of the blaze, officials announced Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office will begin its investigation within the next three months after news reports indicated that taped dispatch calls from two phone lines in the Angeles National Forest’s dispatch center have been withheld from forest-service investigators.

“I was deeply troubled to learn that critical Forest Service dispatch recording from the start of the fire were withheld from federal review teams,” said Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Glendale.

Last month, Schiff planned to hold a panel with other regional members of congress, including Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, to question fire-service employees and fire experts on how the Station Fire was handled. The meeting was postponed because of a special session of Congress.

The panel will be rescheduled, but a date hasn’t been set yet, said Maureen Shanahan, a spokeswoman for Schiff. 

The Station Fire scorched almost 170,000 acres, destroyed more than 100 homes and killed two Los Angeles County firefighters after it erupted August 26, 2009. The blaze destroyed some structures in the Acton-Agua Dulce area, but spared most of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, has been critical of the forest service’s policy to not make water drops at night.

Antonovich has said if the Forest Service had aggressively attacked the blaze by air at night when it was still relatively small, the fire would not have grown so wildly out of control,

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