The legacy of the Station fire

Now that the U.S. Forest Service is being accused of a timid, low-budget response to the Station fire, and a possible coverup of damning evidence which may lead to that conclusion, we can speculate about what if any changes will become standard operating procedure in the wake of this sad episode.  Will a knee-jerk reaction be to dispatch the world’s firefighters to every fire that escapes initial attack? Fire administrators, or the ‘ologists who run fire programs in the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies, will have nightmares about being in the same shoes that officials at the Angeles National Forest, and the Regional and National USFS offices find themselves in now. Being subpoenaed to testify about your screwups before congressional committees, the GAO, and the Inspector General could keep a person awake at night. Not to mention going to prison, after the Inspector General gets done mucking around.

Here is an excerpt from an article written on the subject by Char Miller, director of the environmental analysis program at Pomona College, and author of “Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism.”

Referring to the Station fire and it’s afermath:

…Its blackened acres have become an in-your-face warning to firefighting agencies across the state. So have congressional hearings that charged the Forest Service with mismanagement and media investigations that unearthed damning evidence about a possible cover-up. Because no agency head wants to endure such public scrutiny, because no one wants to bear witness to the anguish of burned-out communities, every fire now is going to get hit hard.

This is not the smartest response. Not all fires must be controlled; some are essential to maintain ecosystem health. Not all firefighting makes economic sense, either. While the commitment to protect human life is non-negotiable, Californians must become a lot smarter about where they choose to live. If they decide to reside in fire zones, they need to learn how to safely inhabit those areas so as not to endanger the lives of those racing to their rescue.

In the immediate aftermath of the Station Fire, however, these cautionary insights have been lost. Now that fire has become so politicized, whenever and wherever sparks fly, a small army of firefighters will storm in and flame-retardant will rain down.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “The legacy of the Station fire”

  1. I doubt Char is correct about starting to throw everything we’ve got at fires. But even if we move just a little in that direction, it could save us another South Canyon.

    Recently started re-reading Maclean’s first book again (for the fourth time) and it truly is mind-numbing to read of the lame-ass decisions and indecision that plagued that fire from its beginning….

  2. I was called in on day 3. It was a clusterfuck. The ONLY people who were making a difference were Cliff and Diane. They retired this last year. They are missed. Cliff and Diane NEED to be recognized for the work they ahve done. There has never been, nor will there ever be a more capable platform. It is all about the people in the seats.

    I hope you both are enjoying your retirement. You deserve it. I am hoping we can fill your shoes, but it’s a big fit.


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