GAO to probe Station fire response

The independent Government Accountability Office has agreed to investigate the full Station fire response amid concerns that critical radio communications were withheld during previous inquiries, according to announcement Wednesday from Rep. Adam Schiff’s office.

In announcing the investigation, Schiff (D-Burbank) said in a statement that revelations that the U.S. Forest Service dispatch recordings from the start of the fire were withheld from previous investigators clearly demonstrated the need for an independent investigation.

The review, he said, would “evaluate whether the actions in response to the fire were taken in the most efficacious way possible.”

The Station fire blackened 160,000 acres, destroyed dozens of homes and killed two firefighters last summer.

Controversy has remained regarding early-morning communication on Aug. 27, 2009, between federal and state firefighters about what was at the time a small blaze in the Angeles National Forest.

U.S. Forest Service officials, who do not have authority or equipment for air fire attacks at night, said they asked state firefighters to use air tankers to attack the growing blaze. Officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the feds failed to order the air tankers.

The fire, which had started the previous day, grew out of control later that morning and was not fully contained for more than a month.

A slew of regional Congressional representatives, including Reps. Brad Sherman (D- Sherman Oaks) and David Dreier (R-San Dimas), joined Schiff earlier this year in calling for a panel hearing in Pasadena to discuss the initial fire response. Many of the lead fire and Forest Service officials involved in the response were scheduled to testify, but the hearing was postponed last month due to a special session of Congress.

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