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Fire Official's Decision Sparks Debate : Response: Westminster chief turned down request for help during Los Angeles riots.

May 19, 1992|ERIC YOUNG and THUAN LE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Other fire chiefs in the county said they do not agree with Scott's decision but understood why he was worried.

"My attitude was that I fully understand his concern. However, my decision was based on my officers being able to make decisions in the field as to the safety of the crew," said Chief Bud Moody of the Brea Fire Department. "The field commanders were in the position to judge, and that's where I put my reliance. I wouldn't second guess Chief Scott's decision."

Rich Dewberry, president of the Orange County Fire Chiefs Assn. and chief of the Laguna Beach Fire Department, agreed.

"I don't blame him for doing what he thought he had to do. It's his people," Dewberry said. "But I just trust the strike team leader whose responsibility it is to make that decision" of whether an area is safe to battle a blaze.

But "civil disorder is different from most disasters we respond to," Dewberry said, and raises new questions.

"We need to look at ways to protect our strike teams, and that might mean changes in our current policy dealing with participating in the mutual aid agreement. So the next time, chiefs like Scott won't have to make that decision and would be comfortable with our policy."

Scott suggested that firefighters should be accompanied by police from their own cities, and should have continual protection by those officers from the staging area to the fire.

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