As I've stated before, the Morris fire started like one day before. I don't think they wanted remove resources from the Morris fire which they thought had some bad potential.
Well, they called it very wrong.
I was pretty shocked on the news when the Station fire went from like the 40 acres to 8000 in the span of 8 hours or so.
They'll be a lot of finger pointing, someone will get reassigned, someone will get promoted.
But the forest is still burned and houses were lost.
And two firemen died and other people were injured.
there were 3 presenters for a total of more than 1 hour leaving 20 mins for questions from the residents. The first presenter was David Conklin,fire mgmt officer for the ANF re: the early stages of the fire. The second was Chief Deputy John Tripp, LA county fire re: the early stages of the fire. The third was Mike Dietrich, Type 1 incident team commander re:almost the entire fire. Then there was Q&A.
Conklin was mentioning that the fire was burning below the Angeles Crest Hwy(referred to as Angeles Crest canyon) at 15 acres when the part not being handled stopped above a cliff. 5 spot fires from that then were downhill towards the Arroyo Seco and helicopters managed to snuff out 4 of them...alas one of them contoured north and back up the next drainage uphill from them. It also sneaked down to the Arroyo Seco.
When the fire came back up to Angeles Crest they were unable to tackle it uphill of the highway due to the terrain(I suppose unaware of trails in the area). The next part was never mentioned in the presentations, but moreso in the Q&A. The fire analysts had predicted a east movement of the fire(which was also happening). LA
country had positioned along those lines ,eastern LaCanada through Altadena...the command was run out of LaCanda country club and thats where the fire was going to be defended(the exit of the Arroyo Seco river).
One major subject was who was in command, and it was never quite clear. It was stated succiently that the unified command happened at 2pm(not sure if it was Thurs or Fri), anyways no one said they were in command when the fire burnt towards Mt.Lukens...it was like I wasnt in command at that time and thats all I can say....well, it was the unified command(with who knows being part of it) having just taken over.
The thing is the unified command, doesnt know the mountains. I dont mind because they fight fires. Dietrich kept on mentioning local command was key in fighting the fires, but it was obvious, local command=LA county, who they were heavily dependent on. Conklin would later answer me that LA county knows the mountains, which I strenuously disagreed with. I'll note that Tripp said Big Tujunga fires are usually benign.But the bottom line is no one put boots above the original fire like the Morris fire.
The biggest ? was when one of the dozers was somewhere near Grizzly Flats and couldnt see the fire...which is amended to 2 dozers operating along MtLukens fireroad(a very general area), which was still getting quizzical looks...it was the place where the fire at the time was not visible without mentioning what 2 dozers are supposed to do if it was.
And surprisingly, no one on BigT road, even when MtLukens was on fire. Residents mentioned that the fire was absolutely visible and the fire dept came by saying they would be defended soon but to evacuate...but by the time the cavalry arrived it was too late and unsafe for LA county. The main fire had already moved north at about 14mph, cutting off the road and the only option left was to defend before MM 0 at a horse ranch,the slow fire part moving west towards them. A lot of the homes burned were inside the forest, something not really mentioned and how to protect structures when the fire is coming down the canyon+coming down the right side of the screen,+burning now on the left side,+no way up the canyon....
The audience mentioned there were ANF fire vehicles trying to protect the Vogel Flats ANF structures, but to no reply...I didnt mention the nice Big Tujunga dam protection(incl water dropping heli) farther upcanyon personally because it was getting real tense...and because we only know that from video and not the timeline. People were getting unnerved because they were getting answers that would later be disproven..as the audience had the timeline down to a T. They were then told to write down their questions and submit them.
As far as the tough&emotional part, I think thats what the news was there for, but they didnt get what they perhaps wanted in drama. People spoke passionately, but respectfully of losing their home&no notice before leaving in a few mins, or having a home thats about to be landslided,and recalling&correcting the presenters with what happened. After the host(a city government rep?) mentioned hopefully little rain would come this winter, the end of the meeting was close
U.S. Forest Service launches inquiry into Station fire response
The agency scaled back its attack the night before the blaze, the biggest in Los Angeles County history, began to burn out of control.
By Paul Pringle
October 1, 2009
The U.S. Forest Service has launched an internal inquiry into the agency's attack on the deadly Station fire, an operation that was scaled back the night before the blaze began to burn out of control.
"With the significant loss of life, and impacts to the local community, we must determine the effectiveness of our efforts," Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell said in a written statement Wednesday. Tidwell said he would ask other agencies to participate in the review.
But the Forest Service has declined to release detailed information about its response to the suspected arson fire, citing in part an ongoing homicide investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department into the deaths of two firefighters whose truck fell off a mountain road. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department sent a letter Wednesday to fire officials asking that the material be withheld until detectives review it.
Neither Forest Service officials nor Whitmore would explain how the release of information on the deployment of firefighters and equipment might jeopardize the investigation. The firefighters were killed on the blaze's fifth day.
The Times reported this week that the Forest Service considered the fire nearly contained at the end of the first day, and thus prepared to go into mop-up mode the next morning with fewer ground crews and water-dropping helicopters, according to documents and interviews. After the story appeared, fire victims demanded an investigation.
The blaze, which broke out Aug. 26, destroyed about 90 homes and other buildings and blackened more than 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest. It is the largest fire in the county's recorded history.
Big Tujunga Canyon residents, many of whom lost homes to the fire, said they welcomed the Forest Service inquiry, but were skeptical that it would be as rigorous as an independent probe.
"Will we get the truth? I don't know," said Cindy Marie Pain, whose Stonyvale Road house burned down. She said she believed the Forest Service was withholding information on its tactics because "they look bad enough already."
Residents have accused the Los Angeles County Fire Department of not doing enough to keep the flames from the canyon community after the blaze spread from its starting point above La Caņada Flintridge. County officials have said the department did all it could without risking the lives of firefighters.
Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Glendale), whose district borders the Angeles National Forest, said the Forest Service failed to address concerns that he and five other local members of Congress raised more than two years ago about the agency's firefighting capabilities.
In an August 2007 letter, the lawmakers cited reports of a "severe shortage of qualified supervisors" in the forest and complaints that many firefighters had quit because of low pay and management that "has not been responsive."
"We'll look at what the Forest Service investigation reveals and we'll see if a broader investigation needs to be done," Schiff said Wednesday. "It seems to me that this is a situation where you would want maximum transparency."
The Times reported that in the evening of the fire's first day, the Forest Service estimated that the blaze would be controlled by the following afternoon, with no loss of structures and minimal harm to the natural treasures of the San Gabriel Mountains. Overnight, as the 15-acre fire grew, the Forest Service realized its mistake and began to summon more equipment and crews.
On that fateful second day, the county department lent the Forest Service a heli-tanker but denied its request for another smaller chopper, according to documents and interviews.
Chief Deputy John Tripp, the department's No. 2 official, said he made that decision because he did not believe the fire was endangering neighborhoods, and because the county must keep some helicopters for other emergencies.
Julius Goff, severely burned after taking refuge in a hot tub, says he didn't ignore a mandatory evacuation order but instead stayed behind to warn 10 neighbors who did not receive the order to leave.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other authorities held them up as examples of irresponsible behavior. They were the butt of jokes. But one of the two Big Tujunga Canyon residents who jumped into a hot tub to escape the raging Station fire says they are being unfairly judged.
Julius Goff, who suffered serious burns, told The Times that he did not ignore a mandatory evacuation order but instead stayed behind to warn 10 neighbors who did not receive the order to leave. By the time he reached his own house, with plans to get his housemate and get out, the fire had surrounded them.
Trapped, the men ran screaming through 50-to-100-foot flames to what they saw as their best hope: the only pool of water within reach.
Later, Goff watched in tears from a hospital bed as they were repeatedly castigated on TV. Then he learned that everything he owned was lost in the fire.
"I'm not some idiot who ignores the evacuation order," Goff said Sunday as he surveyed the piles of debris and ash, which are all that remain of the two-story house. "I got a 10-year-old son. I don't want to die."
Goff's account of trying to step into the void when authorities failed to reach all of his neighbors comes amid other questions about how the fire was fought in the Angeles National Forest. Reinforcements from Los Angeles County were scaled back early in the battle, and federal officials now say they are investigating the actions that allowed the blaze to rage out of control. The fire, which began Aug. 23 above La Caņada Flintridge, became the largest in recorded county history and killed two county firefighters when their truck plunged off a mountain road.
Goff, a 50-year-old single father who lives on Social Security, moved into the canyon community of Vogel Flats seven years ago. An elderly resident offered them a free room in his house on Stonyvale Road in exchange for help maintaining the place.
Goff said that when firefighters from Orange County arrived in Vogel Flats the morning of Aug. 26, he was one of two residents asked to show them around as they recorded the number of people in each dwelling and where propane and water tanks were located. Although a voluntary evacuation order was in effect, Goff said fire officials told residents they thought the fire might bypass their community.
"They said don't worry, we are going to put a truck in front of every house," Goff said.
Even so, Goff was concerned about his neighbor, Trevor Pullen, who has been in a wheelchair since a motorcycle accident six years ago. He went to Pullen's house and advised him to leave. When Pullen's caregiver called to say she was stuck at a checkpoint, Pullen met her to escort her into the canyon. Then she and another aide loaded Pullen, his chair and three dogs into two vehicles, which sped off.
"This guy saved my life," Pullen said Sunday.
By this time, it was nearly noon and flames had appeared on a ridge above the strip of cabins and homes. Sheriff's deputies started banging on residents' doors, telling them to get out immediately. When Goff headed down the road to check on other neighbors, he said the deputies tried to stop him.
"I said, 'But there's more people down there, aren't you going to get them?' " Goff said. "They said: 'We're leaving.' "
Members of the Incident Command say they did the best they could without putting the lives of firefighters and deputies at risk. At an emotional meeting with Tujunga residents last week, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Deputy John Tripp said the terrain was too dangerous to make a stand in Big Tujunga Canyon, and officials had no choice but to order crews to pull out.
On Monday, Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore emphasized how unpredictable the fire had been.
"Sometimes the evacuation orders were given, and you needed to respond instantly," he said, adding that he was relieved to hear Goff was recovering.
Goff said that when he saw sheriff's deputies and fire crews leave, he made the decision to head deeper into the canyon. He knew his neighbors were still loading their vehicles, unaware that the voluntary evacuation had become urgent. He told them to drop everything and go.
At his house, Goff found the garage and a boat parked in the frontyard already on fire. He kicked open a chicken coop to let the birds out and ran inside the house. Goff's son was safe with his sister, and his landlord was away on a hunting trip. But their new housemate -- a man he knew only by his first name, Peter -- had not evacuated. He found him in tears.
"We've got to get out of here," Goff recalled telling Peter. The fire's heat was melting the window frames. A moose head hanging in the living room burst into flames.
"I'm panicking now," Goff said. "I figure we're dead."
For a minute, he considered emptying out two big meat freezers and hiding inside. Then he remembered the hot tub.
Goff grabbed a pair of jeans, ripped them in half and soaked them with water from a water heater so they would have something wet to put over their faces.
Peter grabbed their landlord's dog, Roxy. Huge flames were racing across the yard as they ran for the tub.
"All I could do was scream, it was so hot," Goff said.
As they scrambled across a footbridge, the slats broke and Peter fell. Goff pulled him back up and the two men jumped into the water. There they lay on their backs, with Roxy on Goff's chest, for about an hour and a half.
When the worst of the flames had passed, the men saw two U.S. Forest Service trucks driving down the road. The local firefighters had come looking for them, Goff said, and they were bringing body bags. The two men stumbled across the yard and were hauled into one of the vehicles, which reversed all the way back to the nearby ranger station.
"After all the other firetrucks pulled out, these guys saved my life," Goff said, tearfully.
A Sheriff's Department helicopter flew through thick smoke to bring them to hospital, authorities said.
When Schwarzenegger addressed a news conference the next day, authorities were battling to persuade residents in a number of areas to heed mandatory evacuation orders. Underlining the risks that holdouts could face, Schwarzenegger said: "People got burned and really badly injured because they did not listen."
Goff was still on a lot of pain medication when he heard what was being said. He wandered into the street and walked up to a police officer, demanding to speak to the governor. The officer gently directed him back to his hospital room.
Asked about Goff's case Monday, Brittany Chord, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, said: "The governor's No. 1 priority is the safety of all Californians, and he takes the evacuation orders very seriously in any emergency situation."
Goff has not heard from his housemate, Peter, since the man checked himself out of the hospital. Goff left the hospital about two weeks ago. His legs are still bandaged, and he constantly shifts his weight from foot to foot to lessen the pain. At night, he is plagued by terrifying nightmares.
Some neighbors say Goff is owed an apology.
"This man is a hero," said Bronwyn Aker, who lives up the road.
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