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Date set for Station fire hearing

Congressional look at officials' response to the blaze is rescheduled for Oct. 12.

September 14, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com
(Roger Wilson/News-Press )

A congressional hearing that would have taken testimony from top forest and firefighting officials on the response to the devastating Station fire has been rescheduled for Oct. 12 in Pasadena.

The hearing was originally to be held Aug. 10 but was canceled when members of Congress were called on short notice to a rare session to vote on jobs legislation. The hearing is now slated for 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals Building, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena, according to an announcement Tuesday from Rep. Adam Schiff's office.

The Station fire burned for nearly two months, killing two firefighters, destroying more than 80 structures and torching 160,000 acres.

In August, the Government Accountability Office agreed to look into communications between the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection during the early stages of the fire.

Communications problems between the two agencies during the second day of what was then a small fire are believed to have slowed the response of air tankers to the blaze. In August, lawmakers learned that Forest Service telephone logs may have been concealed from prior federal investigations of the blaze.

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Separately, Schiff has advocated for reinstituting the U.S. Forest Service's authority and capability to perform night flights over wildland fires. The agency suspended night flights after a fatal crash in the 1970s.

"The goal is to hear from representatives of the Forest Service and other responding agencies, as well as outside experts and critics, to shed additional light on firefighting procedures and techniques, how they were applied during the Station fire, and how they should be revised to improve outcomes in the future," Schiff said in a statement.

Among those slated to testify are Jody Noiron, supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, L.A. County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman and Duncan Baird, a longtime Pasadena firefighter whose home in Big Tujunga Canyon was torched by the blaze.

On Tuesday, Baird said he plans to testify that the U.S. Forest Service failed to take precautions by dropping fire retardant ahead of the advancing flames in the days before the fire reached Big Tujunga Canyon.

He also said the agency later misled the public by saying no air tankers had been available.

"The forest service ignored us until it was too late," Baird said.

FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to reflect that Baird referred to the Forest Service, not the fire service.

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