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Congresswoman Chu Urges Implementation of Lessons Learned from Station Fire

December 16, 2011
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32) commented on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Station Fire report, Station Fire: Forest Service's Response Offers Potential Lessons for Future Wildland Fire Management, released to the public today.  The GAO report identifies five lessons learned from the Station Fire: 1) the importance of deploying night-flying aircraft to help suppress fires; 2) the importance of transparency in ordering and mobilizing firefighting assets; 3) the importance of tracking where water and retardant are dropped by aircraft; 4) the importance of having more fire behavior models to better predict behavior and determine response; 5) the importance of having methods to identify necessary firefighting assets.

"I am pleased with the release today of the GAO's Station Fire report.  With this, we now have a thorough and objective assessment of what happened and why, and a path forward," said Rep. Chu. "I agree that fighting fires in Southern California's dry forests is incredibly challenging.  It is clear that mistakes were made, but there is a valuable opportunity to learn and improve in order to ensure that this kind of loss of wildland, property and life doesn't happen again in our forests.  

"I am heartened by the Forest Service's progress in changing its night-flying guidelines and some asset-ordering procedures. But, I also strongly agree with the GAO's recommendation that the Forest Service must further clarify when it expects its own firefighting assets to be used, rather than assets from other agencies. We all know that time is of the essence when combating wildfires, and by clarifying this policy, we can ensure that the closest, most adequate resources are deployed to fight a fire, regardless of which agency those resources belong to.  This is the most important lesson learned from the Station Fire, and I intend to hold the Forest Service accountable in this regard so that unnecessary delays and rejection of aid from outside agencies never happens again.

"I will fight to ensure that the Forest Service, Los Angeles County and local cities, are collaborating to tackle the lessons identified by the Station Fire report.  The Forest Service must have the resources it needs, such as access to night-flying helicopters, and all the right models in place to fight and prevent forest fires large and small.  I will push the Forest Service to make sure resources are deployed quickly and aggressively, and that every fire is met with full force in the future."

The Station Fire began in the Angeles National Forest on August 26, 2009, and was not brought under control until October, 2009. This resulted in two firefighters' deaths, 89 homes and many other structures destroyed, and 160,000 acres of land in Los Angeles County burned.  The Forest Service is responsible for fighting and managing fires in the Angeles National Forest.  However, Los Angeles County, and the cities of Glendale, Los Angeles and Pasadena helped the Forest Service suppress the fire, which cost an estimated $95 million. The Angeles National Forest, like many Southern California forests, is located in one of the driest, most fire prone areas in the United States.

To read the GAO's Station Fire report, click here