Tujunga Canyon resident confronts fire officials

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Ash in the pool of a home damaged by the Station Fire in Big Tujunga Canyon.

Governor Schwarzenegger and fire officials toured a burned-out neighborhood Thursday in Big Tujunga Canyon. KPCC’s Brian Watt says they met a man who’d lost his home, and asked them why.

Brian Watt: The governor walked through rubble where homes had stood, and received a briefing on the fire’s status near the charred shells of cars and swimming pools filled with ash.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: There’s tremendous effort being put into really put out these fires as quickly as possible. I wanted to come up here to just see the destruction that is of course heartbreaking.

Watt: Heartbreaking and a little maddening for Bert Voorhees. His 900-square-foot home had burned to the ground. Voorhees followed the governor’s group on the tour. During a news conference he stood among the reporters and confronted the officials with questions about why they didn’t deploy more firefighters and aircraft early last week to protect the area.

Bert Voorhees: Some command decision got made to not put any resources into this, and we now all know that was a giant mistake. To us in the canyon, it appeared that the resources were going to rich areas and nothing here.

Watt: Deputy incident commander Carlton Joseph replied that he and his colleagues set priorities based on immediate threats.

Carlton Joseph, U.S. Forest Service: This thing moved in hard and fast. And these firefighters I spoke with tell me they’ve never seen fire burn that fast, and I have the utmost respect for their opinion and for the facts behind this.

Watt: Fire officials agreed to meet later with Voorhees and his neighbors to explain their decisions in detail.

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