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Glenmore Canyon Residents Ask for Fire Chief's Ouster

November 29, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saying the Glendale Fire Department sacrificed their neighborhood during a June hillside blaze, Glenmore Canyon residents Wednesday urged the City Council to oust the city's fire chief and compensate victims for uninsured losses.

In a letter hand-delivered to Glendale City Hall, Rob Sharkey, president of the Glenmore Canyon Homeowners Assn., also asked the council to seek an independent investigation of the manner in which the fire was fought. The association is also seeking a council pledge that the city will provide equal fire protection for all hillside homes.

Sharkey said the letter is based on five resolutions adopted recently by the board of his association, which represents owners of about 200 houses.

"We've never gone to the City Council with any of these requests," he said. "We hope they will be fair-minded and just. Failing to ask, nothing will happen. This isn't a wish list. It represents the feelings of the fire victims. People just don't feel safe at this point."

In Glenmore Canyon, 14 houses were destroyed and another six were damaged in the June 27 fire. Residents have complained that their houses burned while they waited two hours for firefighters to arrive.

Last summer, a coalition of Glendale homeowner associations asked the state's fire marshal and attorney general to investigate the way firefighters fought the blaze, which damaged or destroyed 64 homes in Glenmore Canyon and two other neighborhoods.

Both state officials rejected the plea, saying it was outside their jurisdiction. Sharkey made the same request Oct. 30 to the California Joint Senate-Assembly Committee on Police, Fire, Emergency and Disaster Services. But committee members urged the association to pursue its grievances through local channels.

Some residents have questioned whether Glendale officials can conduct an impartial review of city firefighting policies, but Sharkey said his association agreed to take its concerns to the local governing body.

In the Glendale Fire Department's own analysis, released Oct. 23, fire officials acknowledged that Glenmore Canyon was "devoid of firefighting resources for approximately two hours into the incident."

But Fire Chief John Montenero defended the strategy, saying it was necessary to concentrate firefighting efforts in another neighborhood at the fire's eastern edge to keep it from burning into Pasadena. Montenero said this tactic helped save more than 700 houses, and he said he would use it again under similar circumstances.

Montenero was on vacation and unavailable for comment Wednesday on the association's call for his removal.

But Mayor Larry Zarian said Wednesday: "Overall, I'm satisfied with Chief Montenero and his staff and their handling of firefighting in the city. I feel the department is run very professionally."

However, he added that "if the question is, 'Are we perfect?' the answer is, 'No, we're not perfect.' Is there room for improvement? Absolutely."

Zarian said he had not read the association's letter Wednesday morning, but he promised to review it with City Manager David Ramsay and other council members. He said he may meet with Sharkey and other association members to discuss the group's concerns.

The letter asserted that "Glenmore Canyon was sacrificed to the June 27th fire without just cause" and that the Fire Department's own analysis of the blaze was "replete with fallacies, omissions and contradictions."

It also asked the council to seek an independent investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney and the Los Angeles County Grand Jury concerning the way the fire was fought.

The letter asked the council to respond within 15 days.

Sharkey said he is sending copies of the resolutions to 10 other Glendale homeowner associations, seeking their support.

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