Lawmakers question response strategy at Station Fire hearing

Los Angeles-area lawmakers grilled U.S. Forest Service officials today at a congressional hearing in Pasadena. They wanted answers about the slow response on the first day of last year’s Station Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains. The largest fire in L.A. County history killed two firefighters and gutted more than 200 buildings.

Some lawmakers asked L.A. County Fire Chief Michael Freeman if his department should take the lead in fighting wildfires in the local mountains.

“While it’s probably intended as a move or step forward, it’s really not," Freeman said. Number one, the incident command system and now, adopted by the federal government, the incident management system, makes very good use of unified command. And that is in my professional opinion and experience the way it should be. And the way that works is if the incident occurs on a given agency’s turf, they are in command of it.”

An internal review found that the Forest Service may have delayed a call for extra help to avoid spending too much money. Forest Service authorities deny that.

Members of the association for Forest Service workers say the agency needs supervisors that are better trained. The hearing drew a “standing room only” crowd at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena.