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Did a Delay in Deploying Aircraft Prolong Efforts to Contain the Massive Station Fire?

Photo by Andrew Meyers Photography via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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In the aftermath of the massive Station Fire, the issue of the timeliness of firefighting aircraft deployment has come under much scrutiny. "Newly released records contradict a finding by the U.S. Forest Service that steep terrain prevented the agency from using aircraft to attack -- and potentially contain -- the Station fire just before it began raging out of control," reports the LA Times. There is contention from experts who believe the Forest Service came to an erroneous conclusion when they asserted "helicopters and tanker planes would have been ineffective because the canyon in the Angeles National Forest was too treacherous for ground crews to take advantage of aerial water dumps." On the second day of the fire a request was made for aircraft, as logs show, but were subsequently "canceled" in the case of airtankers and "significantly delayed" in the case of the helitanker.

Firefighters on scene in the area where air assistance was requested say such aid "might have stopped the blaze from erupting into the disaster that it became." Others, including a retired fire chief and various fire experts, have numerous insights as to how the fire "could have" been better handled and perhaps contained more swiftly. However, the "Forest Service says aerial drops at first light or soon after on Day 2 would have accomplished nothing. The agency also dismisses suggestions by some critics that its strategy was influenced by a memo issued three weeks before the fire that instructed forest supervisors to rein in costs."

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