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California

Charges that O.C. agency botched response to Anaheim Hills fire prompts changes and calls for a probe

Canyon fire No. 2 in Anaheim Hills
A DC-10 makes a fire retardant drop as the Anahiem Hills fire rages along Highway 241 and Santiago Canyon Road in Orange.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Amid questions over the Orange County Fire Authority’s response time to the Canyon Fire 2, Anaheim officials announced Tuesday the city has changed its protocol for responding to mutual-aid blazes.

Anaheim firefighters were first called about the brush fire -- which eventually charred 9,200 acres, destroyed 25 structures and injured four people -- at 9:26 a.m. Oct. 9, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.

For the record:
2:30 PM, Oct. 26, 2017 An earlier version of this article said Slikker was a volunteer for the fire department. He’s actually a volunteer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The city forwarded the information to the County Fire Authority because it is in charge of quarterbacking the deployment of resources in the area of the 91 Freeway and Gypsum Canyon, Wyatt said.

At 9:43 a.m., the OCFA called Anaheim back and asked the city to respond to the blaze, Wyatt said.

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“So we’ve changed our procedures, effective immediately,’' Wyatt said.``We will send resources [to the fire] and forward the call to OCFA ... just to be on the safe side rather than waiting for them to call and ask for us.’'

Jim Slikker, a retired Orange County sheriff’s deputy who now serves as a volunteer medic for the department, again ramped up his criticism of the agency Monday by producing copies of California Highway Patrol dispatch logs that indicate calls were coming in to authorities 8:32 a.m. Oct. 9 about a blaze in the area of the first Canyon Fire, which torched about 2,600 acres in late September.

A minute later there were calls of a blaze on the eastern side of the Highway 241 toll road, prompting a response from the Fire Authority that “the fire is unfounded, it’s only ashes.’'

At 9:33 a.m., firefighters responded to the calls of a blaze by sending a helicopter, according to the dispatch logs. Slikker has criticized the OCFA for not responding to a hot spot at Sierra Peak reported by Anaheim police the night of Oct. 8.

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Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Marc Stone on Friday said it was impossible for the Sierra Peak hot spot to have sparked Canyon Fire 2, arguing the embers would have had to travel three miles upwind.

Slikker said he hopes the county hires an independent agency to investigate the Fire Authority’s response.

At the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting Oct. 31, Supervisor Shawn Nelson wants the board to discuss how to best investigate whether the county’s response to the fire was correct.


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