Want to know what's going to be in the LA Times on Wednesday? Just listen to talk radio on Tuesday morning. Apparently, the reports that Davis turned away federal help while peoples' homes burned is true.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), whose home was destroyed by fire Monday, said federal legislation that would smooth the way for the military to use its helicopters to fight fire on public and private land is being stymied by private companies that lease firefighting planes to state governments.The firefighters insist that Davis didn't cause any delays, but their union was one of Davis' most fervent supporters in the recent recall election.
Throughout San Diego County, in the early phase of the most destructive fire in its history, homeowners had looked skyward for tankers and helicopters but didn't see any.
"The only chance to stop the fire was aerial tankers early on Sunday morning, backed by bulldozers, and that's what didn't happen," said Richard Carson, an economics professor at UC San Diego and an expert on public policies involving disaster response, including large-scale brush fires. ...
San Diego-based Navy helicopters, routinely used to fight fires on military property, were prepared to battle the Cedar fire on Sunday but remained grounded because state officials said the Navy pilots did not have appropriate training. The helicopters were flown to the Ramona airport, but pilots were denied permission to drop water as the fire began its march south and west.
"It's one thing to get the plane," she said. "It's another thing to get them ready to fly in California airspace…. As we develop the specific chronology, we will be able to show that there was no delay in the process. We think the facts will support that all efforts were taken."I'm no firefighting-pilot, but I play one on TV; everyone wants the pilots to be safe, but is it really such a challenge to get into the planes/helicopters, fly over the fires, and drop water? Apparently, these military assets are used to fight fires on federal land (in California!), so why aren't they qualified to fight fires on adjacent state land? We all want our firefighters to be safe, but when there's a huge emergency sometimes greater risks need to be taken.
But Hunter said the "firefighting bureaucracy" tends to be slow to act and that officials are reluctant to criticize other fire officials.Oh, maybe that's the problem -- Davis owes some buddies some favors. He wants to land a cushy consulting job once he's ousted from government, and he can't (ahem) burn all his bridges just because he's on his way out. It's a pity about the thousands of homes and dozens of lives, but c'mon people, get some perspective!
Hunter said other members of Congress from Western states have been frustrated when asking state officials to request aerial tankers and helicopters from the U.S. military.
"There's a reluctance among the firefighting bureaucracy at the state and federal levels to use military assets until they exhaust the last of private companies," Hunter said.
He said he has teamed with a congressman from Colorado to seek a change in federal law that would speed the process of getting military craft to fight fires. The private companies that lease and operate aerial tankers are opposed to such a move, Hunter said.