The estimated total cost of the 2009 county wildfires and subsequent floods and land slippage was $201 million, the board of supervisors learned Tuesday.
Of the total, $60.3 million has been spent through August, with work continuing. Much of the cost will be reimbursed by the state and federal governments under the continuing state of emergency, according to public works director Gail Farber.
The county has spent some $3 million on guardrail repairs and replacements, $4 million on debris basin cleanup and enhancement, and continuing upgrades on local streets and highways.
Outlet and inlet structures and crib dam work is underway on Dunsmuir, Mullaley, Pickens and Canyonside road.
The board has had a continuing resolution to authorize contracts on an emergency basis with a report back every two weeks. The current list of emergency contracts totals $13.8 million.
Sheriff’s investigators remain stymied in their quest to find the person responsible for starting the massive fire and, despite the offering of a $50,000 reward, the lack of a named suspect and solid leads in the investigation have frustrated some county lawmakers who want justice.
On the federal scene, an inspector general has launched an investigation and the Obama administration has invited Congress to order a broad inquiry into last summer’s disastrous Station Fire after learning that dispatch recordings had been withheld from a U.S. Forest Service review team.
The inspector general’s probe will focus on why the several days of recordings were not turned over to the Forest Service inquiry, which concluded that the agency’s initial attack on the fire was proper. “I find this very serious,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. “I’m very concerned and troubled that this was not found earlier. We want to get this information to learn what occurred on the Station Fire.” Tidwell said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department runs the Forest Service, invited Congress to request the fuller investigation of the agency’s handling of the fire in the Angeles National Forest, a probe that would be conducted by the Government Accountability Office. A Forest Service spokesman said the Agriculture Department’s inspector general could recommend criminal charges based on what the investigation finds. No Forest Service employee has been fired or placed on leave since the recordings were unearthed, Tidwell said.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich is proposing that Angeles Forest Highway be renamed in honor of two firefighters killed in the line of duty while fighting the fire.
By Charles Cooper