For better or worse, America is a litigious society, and everyone’s always looking for someone else they can blame and squeeze a damage settlement out of.
The Station Fire isn’t even out yet, but flames of a different kind were stoked after the L.A. Times ran a story on Sunday suggesting the Forest Service miscalculated the strength of the Station Fire when it was in its early stages, and did not devote all of the resources it should have to put the blaze out. Now, foothill residents are demanding someone take responsibility – or for a Federal probe to determine who should be taking responsibility … besides, you know, whoever started the fire.
Yes, the firefighters and the Forest Service are supposed to be able to prepare and deal with any fire situation, but those fires are by their very nature unpredictable. Can you foresee a gust of wind that takes an ember of a contained fire across a firebreak to ignite a new swath of forest? Probably not.
Of course, people make mistakes, and if there was any negligence on the part of the various agencies in charge of coordinating the firefighting efforts, it should be investigated. The Times cites two examples — the Forest Service Fire Chief reducing the number of firefighters attacking the blaze on the first day when they thought it was relatively under control, and the L.A. County Fire Department denying a helicopter request on the second day – but a lot of this reads like Monday morning quarterbacking to me.
We should have an investigation into the coordination of the firefighting agencies, but I hope the public attention doesn’t stray too far from focusing on restoring the forest or finding the arsonist who set the fire in the first place.
Image by Anthony Citrano.