Feinstein in the News
LATE is better than never when it comes to a government agency releasing a report that could go a long way toward ensuring the public safety and the safety of our natural resources.
That's what the United States Forest Service did on Thursday when - as local elected representatives have been demanding for years - it finally agreed to gear up to fight wildfires with aircraft at night as well as in daylight hours.
If the USFS had been able to do so during the crucial period before the ultimately devastating and deadly Station Fire raged out of control in 2009, what became the largest forest fire in Los Angeles County history probably could have been held to a few hundred acres off the Angeles Crest Highway above La Ca ada Flintridge.
Los Angeles County has long had the capability for nighttime firefighting, as have other agencies around the country. But the USFS, citing safety issues, has not.
Safety issues are of course a real concern. But a fire not put down as quickly as possible becomes a potentially greater safety issue as it grows larger. That's certainly what happened during the Station Fire, which grew to 160,000 acres and was many days into its devastation before it killed two firefighters on the desert side of the Angeles National Forest after the fire spread. Eighty-nine homes were destroyed as well.
Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena - who has taken the lead on this issue - Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and U.S.Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another Democrat announced that the Forest Service will now begin the personnel training and helicopter retrofitting that will make night-flying firefighting possible.
Schiff has taken the lead in this pursuit, and he had long been frustrated as the USFS continued to endlessly "study" the issue. The suspicion was that the study had actually been concluded and that the conclusion was that, yes, night-flying for fire suppression was indeed possible.
But the impediment for the Forest Service was thought to be actually implementing the program.
We understand that the government employees charged with protecting our woodlands are, and have been for decades, underfunded as they try to go about their work. There are fewer rangers available to work in the ever-larger and increasingly used wildlands across our large nation.
As ever, it's a matter of efficiently deploying the resources available. And the Forest Service, with its announcement this week, has happily agreed that one of its most important jobs is the fastest fire suppression possible. In a West increasingly beset by drought and heat, the move is more important than ever.
Congratulations to Schiff, McKeon and Feinstein for their work on this, and to the Forest Service for making the right call for our wildlands.