Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Thursday again lashed out at the U.S. Forest Service for its slow action on Station Fire reports, threatening to introduce legislation compelling the agency to turn over a study originally expected by the end of 2011.
“As we enter yet another fire season, the Forest Service's delay poses additional risks to communities adjacent to the forest,” Schiff said in a statement.
The Forest Service was expected to complete a study on night-flying operations by August 2011.
The Forest service stop using night flights decades ago, citing safety concerns. But the failure by local and federal agencies to use air attacks in the pre-dawn hours when the Station Fire first started in August 2009 is seen as a key reason the blaze grew out of control, burning for nine weeks, blackening 200,000 acres, torching dozens of homes and causing two firefighters to lose their lives.
After missing the first deadline for the night-flying report, the Forest Service then missed another deadline to file the report by the end of 2011.
“The Forest Service should make public their analysis of whether and how to develop its own night-flying capability,” Schiff said. “The GAO report showed that the Forest Service has to begin modernizing its approach to fighting fires, including considering the use of night-flying aircraft. I hope that the agency releases the report they have long-promised so we can quickly move forward.”
Schiff also is seeking to include in the Department of the Interior appropriations bill language requiring the Forest Service to complete the study within 90 days of enactment of the bill.
-- Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News