Recap of Monday’s Meeting

The Public Information Meeting hosted by Council District 2 was well attended by both residents of Big Tujunga Canyon and by representatives from the Forest Service, L.A. City and L.A. County Fire Departments, and by the Unified Incident Commander, Mr. Mike Detrich (sp?). There were also a number of reporters from the L.A. Times, CNN and local television stations, and at least one radio station (KNX).

Although the speakers from the various firefighting agencies tried to address questions about how the Station Fire was handled, the overall feeling among residents was that key questions were left unanswered, or even ignored. At times the anger was obvious, and tensions on both sides were high.

Given the large number of people present, few questions could be addressed during the brief Q&A period. Pat Davenport, the Field Deputy for Council District 2 and referee for the meeting, offered to field questions that remain. Residents can contact her directly via e-mail at: Patricia Davenport <Patricia.Davenport@lacity.org>. Alternately, questions can be submitted through the Angeles Rising website and will be directed to the appropriate party.

For more information about the ongoing discovery process related to the Station Fire and it’s impact on Big Tujunga residents, check out the L.A. Times article listed below.

~B~

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-station-fire29-2009sep29,0,2604294.story

5 replies on “Recap of Monday’s Meeting”

  1. B. says:

    How about starting an online petition here to create pressure for an investigation? So far, the LA Times articles don’t name names. “The Forest Service” isn’t a person. Individuals within the Forest Service made the decisions that led to this disaster. Who were they? They are public servants and should be compelled to explain themselves on the record. Rather than calling for a “witch hunt, ” I simply believe the public has a right to know what happened and why and that our government has an obligation to undertake a thorough investigation. That’s the only way appropriate action can be taken to prevent something like this from happening again.

  2. Bronwen says:

    The names of the Forest Service fire commanders were given during the meeting, as were the names of L.A. County and L.A. City fire commanders involved in responding to the Station Fire. Those names didn’t make it to the press coverage because the focus is really on Mike Dietrich, who was the Unified Incident Commander, and who took over command of the fire response at 2 p.m. (1400h) Thursday, I believe.

    As to online petitions, they don’t and won’t carry much weight with government bureaucracies like the Forest Service and the various fire services that were involved in this event. The Good News, however, is that the press is picking up the story and, courtesy of the Public Information Act, they are more likely to get the answers we are asking for.

  3. Marsha Reynolds says:

    I think it would be great if we could somehow get the attention of a really good investigative reporter who would take interest and dig in. I plan to write to the authors of some of the newspaper articles telling them our story.

  4. Michael Anderson says:

    I think it’s strange that people would believe that the officials would purposely not try to contain the fire. I am sure that winds, weather, safety of fire fighters and other things play into their decisions. As one official said, “we do not take this lightly”. How can one place blame on anyone for doing all that they could? I think the whole thing is weird and so typically “American” to want to make someone responsible…Nature happens.

    Perhaps residents of the hill areas should have read the history of the areas they were moving to and reconsider if they didn’t want to be in the path of fires. . The responses seem really over the top to me.

  5. Mark Fitzsimmons says:

    If you read the documents published by the Federal government regarding wildland fire management, you will find that the top priority is cost reduction, though not at the expense of human lives. While property and infrastructure may also enter the equation, the interagency management plan does not direct the Forest Service to put out fires.

    On the contrary, you will find that the plan has disincentives for declaring that a fire is to be suppressed, and makes it easier for USFS management to choose to “manage” the fire for “resource benefit objectives” which may include fuel reduction (let it burn), re-seeding fire-obligate plants (let it burn) and removal of other undesirable things (parasites, non-natives) in the forest (let it burn).

    You may find many of these policy documents here:
    http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/management/index.html
    and here:
    http://www.nwcg.gov/branches/ppm/fpc/archives/fire_policy/index.htm
    and here:
    http://www.nifc.gov/policies/guides.htm

    I would direct your attention first to these documents:
    http://www.nwcg.gov/branches/ppm/fpc/archives/fire_policy/pdf/strategy.pdf
    http://www.nwcg.gov/branches/ppm/fpc/archives/fire_policy/mission/2008_mod_impl_fed_fire_policy.pdf
    I am curious to know if the ANF is operating under the old policy or the policy as revised in May of 2008, which removes to a small degree the disincentive to suppress a fire initially.

    Some may disagree with my assessment that priority #1 is cost savings, but to these people, I direct your attention to this document:
    http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/management/Large_Fire_Mgt.pdf
    which has a focus on cost reduction and fire management “efficiency”. Although in one table the priorities are listed as (1) life and (2) property and natural/cultural resources, the charter of the team and ALL of the focus questions are aimed at reducing costs.

    “Fires are suppressed at minimum cost, considering firefighter and public safety, and all values to be protected, consistent with resource objectives.”
    I read this as follows: if it costs the agency more to put out a fire than the agency’s liability to replace the things it will burn, don’t do anything. If the fire achieves objectives that would cost money to achieve, you can also put that in the “+” column.

    As you wade through these documents, you may find your head swimming with acronyms (R/IMP, FMP, WFIP, WFSA, RERAP. FARSITE) for things that sound much like each other but are all different documents and processes, tools and decisions that have to be made. I am sure that the city and county have similar but different documents and processes.

    I can’t help but think that the sheer volume of all of these documents and processes prevents much of anything from happening until enough people in various bureaucracies get the signed document that they consider
    to be authority to proceed. You will find that much of what prevents fire suppression, in addition to the disincentive mentioned above, has to do with interagency cost liability for doing something. Who is going to pay for the water and the overtime hours?

    The agonizing thing is that with all the practice we have in Southern California year after year, they don’t get it right until at least one huge fire gets out of control in late Summer, and they forget it again come Spring.

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