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Antonovich chides USFS, says it's failed to adopt fire fighting reforms

Posted: September 9, 2011 6:11 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2011 6:11 p.m.

Federal agencies probing the deadly Station Fire of 2009 are dragging their feet, says Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich.

In a terse statement issued by his office late Friday afternoon, Antonovich calls on the federal government to adopt fire fighting reforms for the U.S. Forest Service.

"It has been two years since the Station Fire devastated 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and killed two Los Angeles County firefighters, yet the federal government continues to drag its feet in concluding investigations and adopting needed reforms," he said, quoting from his letter sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Antonovich cited media reports the forest service has missed its deadline to complete studies needed to shape the agency's future aerial firefighting strategy.

"The federal government's delay puts our communities at risk with the U.S. Forest Service's antiquated firefighting policies largely unchanged," he said.

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

Within a few months of the fire, the Los Angeles County Fire Department issued its report on its investigation and recommendations to the Forest Service on preventing future such catastrophes.

Approved unanimously by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the recommendations included nighttime air attacks, procedural changes, tougher brush-clearance requirements and the use of mechanized fire fighting equipment.

"Significant structural changes must be made before the next major wildfire destroys any more lives, property and national forests," Antonovich said.

On Tuesday morning, Antonovich joined fire chiefs on the tarmac of the Van Nuys Airport to watch pilots demonstrate key fire fighting aircraft.

Only 24 hours earlier, the very same aircraft were dousing 500 acres of brush burning in Agua Dulce with aircraft-carried water in one of the first wildfires of the season.




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