Angeles National Forest chief reassigned
The longtime supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, a target of some criticism over the handling of last year’s Station fire, has been reassigned to the same job in the San Bernardino National Forest, officials said Friday.
Jody Noiron, who has led the Angeles forest since 2000, was in a position to influence key decisions on the deployment of crews, equipment and aircraft during the initial attack on the Station blaze, the largest in Los Angeles County history. The move came on the eve of a scheduled meeting next week of a congressional panel to examine the response to the fire.
Noiron was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment, but the U.S. Forest Service administrator who reassigned her said the transfer had nothing to do with the Station fire.
“I have all the confidence in Jody,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for California. “San Bernardino is one of our flagship forests. We needed someone like her.”
Former Forest Service officials have said tactics employed early in the Station blaze were wrongheaded. Many have said Noiron lacked fire management experience and clashed with her fire staff.
Moore said Noiron has acquired “a lot of experience in fire” during her time at the Angeles forest and in other postings.
The Station fire, which broke out Aug. 26, 2009, burned 250 square miles and destroyed scores of homes and other structures. Two county firefighters were killed.
Noiron is among the officials scheduled to address the panel of local House members looking into the fire. The session is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is also conducting an inquiry into the Station blaze. In addition, a federal inspector general is investigating why the Forest Service failed to turn over telephone dispatch recordings on the fire to an agency review team and the public.
The Times has reported that the Forest Service misjudged the threat posed by the fire after the first day, scaled back its attack and then failed to fill its own commander’s order for a heavy air assault at 7 the next morning, when the blaze was still small. By the time the bigger aircraft arrived two hours later, the fire was raging out of control.
Noiron has said she and her staff did everything possible to stop the fire and denied that pressures to keep costs down prevented her or other officials from summoning reinforcements.
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