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Forest Service will run night flights to battle blazes

August 16, 2012
  • The Station fire burned 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and set off a tense debate over whether the U.S. Forest Service should use night flights to battle blazes. On Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, the agency agreed to restart night flights decades after abandoning them for safety reasons.
The Station fire burned 160,000 acres of the Angeles National… (Roger Wilson/Staff…)

After years of political tension prompted by the response to the Station fire, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to begin training crews and preparing helicopters for night flights to battle wildfires, several California lawmakers announced Thursday.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other lawmakers have pressured the Forest Service to prepare for night flights since the Station fire devastated 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest in 2009, burning nearly 90 homes and killing two firefighters. The Forest Service and local agencies  failed to get enough resources over the fire in its early stages, and the Station fire burned for more than two months.

Forest Service officials discontinued night flights decades ago, citing dangers to airborne crews.

“We will never know with certainty if night flying could have extinguished the Station fire in those critical first hours, but I’m glad we will have a better chance in the future,” Schiff said in a statement.  "This step today by the Forest Service is long overdue, but will provide an important new line of defense against fire for our neighborhoods."

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-- Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News

Twitter: @bkisliuk

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