09.08.10

GAO Agrees to Conduct Full Investigation of Events Surrounding 2009 Station Fire Response

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has accepted the request for a full investigation of the Station Fire from its inception on Aug. 26, 2009, to its containment on Oct. 16, 2009.  Reps. Schiff, McKeon and Dreier lead several of their California colleagues, including Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Reps. Sherman and Chu,in making the bipartisan request for the investigation on Aug. 5, after news reports indicated that critical Forest Service dispatch recordings from the start of the fire, which claimed the lives of two firefighters and resulted in the destruction of numerous homes and structures, were withheld from federal teams that have already conducted reviews of the Station Fire. 

"I was deeply troubled to learn that critical Forest Service dispatch recordings from the start of the fire were withheld from federal review teams,” Rep. Schiff said.  “This warrants an independent review of the Station Fire response.  I eagerly anticipate the commencement of the GAO investigation, which will evaluate whether the actions in response to the fire were taken in the most efficacious way possible.  This review will help us to better understand the events surrounding the initial response to the Station Fire to improve the response to future fires."

According to the GAO, staff with the required skills could be available to initiate the investigation in as soon as three months. 

In addition to the GAO investigation, Rep. Schiff scheduled a panel to convene with his colleagues, Reps. McKeon, Dreier, and Chu, on the initial attack on the Station Fire last year.  While the initial attack on the fire was swift, over the first evening and the next morning, the fire escaped into terrain too dangerous to approach and spread quickly thereafter. Some former Forest Service employees, fire experts and local residents have raised questions about whether the responding agencies followed the appropriate protocols and made the right decisions on the first night of the fire, and the early morning of the next day.

The panel was originally scheduled for early August; however, as a result of a special session of Congress, the Members were needed for votes in Washington, DC, requiring the panel to be postponed.  The Los Angeles-area Members are working together and with the panelists to find another date and time in the near future to reconvene the panel.