The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday that dispatch recordings illustrate that the agency aggressively attacked last year's Station fire with the nearest available planes, but the conversations also show that officials did not place a commander's orders for air tankers on the critical second morning of the blaze.
In the telephone exchanges, dispatchers and firefighters become alarmed at the overnight spread of the flames in the Angeles National Forest and note that the commander has asked that the tankers and other aircraft arrive by 7 a.m.
Shortly after midnight, however, dispatchers say that the Forest Service will divert tankers from a nearby fire in the morning, instead of ordering them through a regional operations center. "We're going to be assigning two air tankers from [the] fire over there," a dispatcher says.
"... diverting two air tankers?" says another speaker identified only as Operations. (Names were redacted from the transcripts.)
"Yeah," the dispatcher says.
The diverted tankers did not start reaching the Station fire until about 9 a.m., after the flames had jumped a key defense line and began raging out of control. The fire became the largest in Los Angeles County history, burning 250 square miles and destroying scores of homes and other structures. Two county firefighters died while defending their Mt. Gleason camp.