Report Raises Questions About Day 2 of Station Fire

New records question findings of the U.S. Forest Service review of tactics used to fight Station Fire.

A team of experts is contradicting a report by the U.S. Forest Service that said the Station Fire spread out of control because of "steep terrain."

The forest service reviewed the first two days of the station fire, which started Aug. 26 in the Angeles National Forest. The report said firefighters could not safely get into the rugged terrain that day.

Without ground crews to help, aerial water drops would have been ineffective, according to the report.

But the Los Angeles Times spoke to experts who reviewed the agency's report, as well as daily summaries officials wrote during the fire. The experts said the agency's report fails to mention that two fire eaptains made separate requests for water drops that were later called-off.

It also said none of the firefighter summaries mentioned steep or rugged terrain.  Additionally, the L.A. Times reported that  one firefighter who took part in the operation said steep terrain did not prevent the use of aircraft later in the fire fight.

"It just irks me to see... that they're blaming the terrain for why no action was taken," Don Feser, a former fire chief for the forest who retired in 2007, told The Times. "They're just making excuses."

"I've covered a lot of that ground, and there is only a small percentage of land that is too steep to put firefighters on. And if we can't put firefighters on it, guess what we do? We use aircraft."

Early Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that document state the Forest Service ordered planes on the first night, but canceled them. Three air tankers were reordered later that day as part of the agency's attack on the Station Fire, but that resulted in a delay from their original planned arrival.

Forest Service officials said their strategy was not influenced by a memo issued weeks before the fire. The memo asked that forest supervisors to keep an eye on costs.

The Station Fire went on to become the largest in LA County history. It burned 250 square miles and destroyed 90 homes.

Two firefighters were killed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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