By Mary O’KEEFE
The Government Accountability Office is continuing to gather information concerning the Station Fire and the procedures and techniques used to battle the blaze that destroyed about 161,000 acres.
In September 2010, the GAO accepted the request by several senators and representatives from California to investigate the Station Fire from its inception on Aug. 26, 2009 to its containment on Oct. 16.
Representatives from the GAO began their investigation in December.
“The team has already been down to the Angeles National Forest and have collected quite a bit of information,” said Anu Mittal, director in natural resources and environmental team at GAO.
The office is in what it calls the “design phase” of the investigation. This is the time when investigators gather information from both officials and community members.
Mittal said Adam Schiff’s office has been gathering names of those community members and others that have viable information concerning the fire and would like to speak to GAO investigators.
Anyone who would like to speak to the investigators is welcome to contact Schiff’s office or the Crescenta Valley Weekly and the information will be passed along to Mittal.
Some Crescenta Valley residents had begun asking questions regarding the handling of the fire even before containment. Those concerns were voiced at community meetings with L.A. County and U.S. Forest fire departments representatives. Supervisor Michael Antonovich had questioned why air support had not been ordered earlier and has been critical of the handling of the fire that ended as the largest fire in Los Angeles County’s history.
In October of last year a panel consisting of representatives Adam Schiff, David Dreier, Brad Sherman, Buck McKeon and Judy Chu questioned representatives from the U.S. Forest Service firefighters and others that had direct knowledge of those early hours of the fire.
“There has been a great deal of speculation about the decision making during the early hours of the fire and I hope that this panel will help us get all the facts out, and give people a chance to raise issues and questions that haven’t been addressed,” said Schiff, prior to a panel discussion on the fire.
The panel left more questions than answers especially in the area of dispatch operators and who decides what is really needed to fight the fire. According to the U.S. Forest Service fire Incident Commander at the beginning of the fire, (now retired) Division Chief Will Spyrison a request was made for aircraft to help fight the fire about midnight on Aug. 27. The aircraft was to arrive by 7 a.m. It didn’t arrive for several hours. The question asked over and over again at the panel was why the planes did not arrive.
That question, as well as other procedures, is what the GAO investigators will be looking into.
“We are definitely going to come back down to [the Angeles National Forest] area,” Mittal said.
That visit will most likely happen in the spring. The investigation will continue and Mittal did not have a date as to when it will be completed. The design phase with most investigations takes about three months, she said.
“At the end of March we will have a better understanding of when we are going to be done,” Mittal added.
For information on the Station Fire and for Congressman Adam Schiff visit the CV Weekly website or click on the QR code below.