Rep. Schiff: Continued Delay By Forest Service After Station Fire Is Unacceptable

Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) again called on the Forest Service to end the interminable delay in their assessment of the agency’s night-flying operations. The helicopter portion of the report was supposed to be completed by August 2011, but the Forest Service missed that deadline. Since then, the Forest Service has missed another internal deadline to complete the report by the end of 2011. That assessment is now more than six months overdue.

“As we enter yet another fire season, the Forest Service’s delay poses additional risks to communities adjacent to the forest.  The Forest Service should make public their analyses of whether and how to develop its own night-flying capability,” said Rep. Schiff. “The GAO report showed that the Forest Service has to begin modernizing its approach to fighting fires, including considering the use of night-flying aircraft. I hope that the agency releases the report they have long-promised so we can quickly move forward.”


Schiff has also requested language be included in the FY 2013 Interior Appropriations bill that would instruct the Forest Service to complete both portions of the study within 90 days of enactment of the bill:


“In the wake of the tragic Station Fire in Southern California, it is necessary to ensure that the Forest Service’s firefighting policies provide the most effective initial attack possible, particularly for forests close to urban areas.


“The Committee remains concerned that Forest Service has not produced two critical documents in a timely fashion. The Forest service must provide the results of the nationwide assessment of the agency’s night flying operations – both the helicopter portion and fixed-wing portion – within 90 days of enactment of this bill.”


The Station Fire hit Southern California in August 2009, devastating 250 square miles, killing two firefighters and destroying many homes. Rep. Schiff has worked with local fire agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and many others to learn from what went wrong in the effort to extinguish the fire and implement changes to make sure those mistakes are not repeated.