The U.S. Forest Service will no longer restrict the use of night-flying, which the Government Accountability Office indicated could have prevented the spread of the 2009 Station Fire in Angeles National Forest.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) announced Thursday that the United States Forest Service will immediately begin the training and retrofitting of helicopters necessary to use helicopters at night to fight wildfires in Southern California.
The Forest Service previously restricted aerial firefighting to daytime only.
Local firefighters were unable to contain the August 2009 fire during the daytime, and ultimately grew to become the largest fire in Los Angeles County history. It burned more than 160,000 acres and destroyed 89 homes. Two firefighters, Arnaldo Quinones and Tedmund Hall, were killed fighting the blaze.
“The Forest Service's decision to allow night flights is a welcome announcement. 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,” said Rep. Schiff in a prepared statement.
"With temperatures hitting triple digits this summer, it's hard for California residents not to worry that another fire could sweep through and devastate our region once again," Schiff said. "This step today by the Forest Service is long overdue, but will provide an important new line of defense against fire for our neighborhoods."
Current temperatures and conditions make this decision preventative for future fires, said Sen. Diane Feinstein.
“This is a long overdue, but a welcome policy change by the Forest Service,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “With the hot, dry conditions in California, wildfires are increasingly dangerous and difficult to contain. Attacking fires from the air at night can bolster firefighting efforts because temperatures are cooler, humidity is higher and Santa Ana winds die down. This new policy will allow the Forest Service to now use its aviation assets around the clock as they heroically battle to save lives and property in California.”