Orange County fire officials admit they were too slow to respond to a fire that burned more than a dozen homes in October, according to an independent review of the emergency response. County officials said they have changed protocol as a result of the missteps.
Canyon Fire 2 began on Oct. 9, 2017, ultimately burning more than 9,200 acres and destroying 25 structures and damaging another 55, according to Cal Fire.
The report released Friday confirmed that more than an hour passed between the initial report of fire and anyone being sent to the area. In fact, the dispatcher who handled the 8:23 a.m. call from a driver on the 91 Freeway told California Highway Patrol officials, who had routed the cell phone call to the county, that the report was unfounded.
It was only after another call an hour later that the fire was confirmed and help was sent.
Even then, the review of the timeline that day found that more time was wasted. The second caller reported fire in the area at 9:27 a.m. Dispatch did not send firefighters until 9:43 a.m., instead first trying to verify the information other ways.
Canyon Fire 2 began burning in an area very near to Canyon Fire 1, which had started on Sept. 25 and was believed to be over. Authorities said they have since mandated the immediate dispatch of resources anytime they get a report of fire in the burn scar areas of previous fires.
The memo outlining those requirements also states:
Reports of 'fire' or 'flames' by the public will always be treated as fire unless proven otherwise. It is not appropriate to send as a 'smoke check' response.
Fire officials said Friday it was impossible to know if a quicker response would have brought the blaze under control before it burned structures.
"The best chance of fighting fires are when they are small but conditions were very poor," said Assistant Chief Dave Anderson, adding that the highs winds and low humidity made Canyon Fire 2 hard to stop, even if the response time had been ideal.
Read the full report:
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained outdated numbers for the structures destroyed and damaged by the Canyon Fire 2.