Saying he is "disappointed" with the "unacceptable" Canyon Fire 2 "response procedure," Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer is calling for a "thorough independent investigation."
The fire began the morning of Oct. 9 with a report of a burning bush in the Anaheim Hills canyon area. But the winds were howling that morning, the fire quickly spread and after the ... wait for it ... smoke cleared six days later, Canyon Fire 2 (not to be confused with the earlier Canyon Fire 1) had burned 9,200 acres of land, damaged or destroyed 60 homes and caused thousands of people to evacuate.
Officials with Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), whose crews did not arrive at the scene of the burning bush for an hour, first said someone only reported seeing smoke, so it was a low priority call. But a witness later came forward swearing he first called in a fire with flames.
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Either way—Jeez people—we're talking about a dry canyon during strong winds in the middle of fire season!
As someone who just happened to be driving through the canyons at that time on the 91 freeway, I can report that smoke had already filled the area around 9:30 a.m., although the wind was whipping so strongly I was not sure at the time if I was driving through dust or smoke.
Spitzer, who besides being a supervisor (and declared candidate for district attorney) is an OCFA board member, issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
Statement: Supervisor Spitzer Disappointed with Unacceptable Canyon Fire 2 Response Procedure; Is Calling for Thorough Independent Investigation
(Santa Ana, CA) – Canyon Fire 2 was a catastrophic event for many citizens of Orange County, primarily those in my Third Supervisorial District. The loss of homes and property is a devastating result for many residents who deserve not only our sympathy and support, but a thorough account of all procedures in the effort to fight this fire.
As a County Supervisor and a Board Member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I have been working closely with OCFA management since Canyon Fire 2 was contained last week in order to obtain a complete understanding of the Fire Authority’s preparation and response to the incident. Over the past three days, I have had several conferences with OCFA officials to thoroughly examine every aspect of agency response times to initial reports of the fire on the morning of October 9.
I was disappointed when I was informed this afternoon that a previously unreported recording of a dispatch response indicates flames in the area were reported more than an hour before fire authorities first sent engines only after receiving numerous other emergency calls. We are now examining a response time of more than an hour.
In my role as OCFA Board Member, I will support an independent investigation of all procedures related to Canyon Fire 2. The investigation shall not be limited to the OCFA, as several other fire agencies are involved, including the US Forest Service, Cal Fire, the Anaheim Fire Department, and the City of Orange Fire Department.
It is imperative that we recognize all elements of the response to Canyon Fire 2 in order to ensure public safety, correct any mistakes, and restore public confidence. Any disclosures from the investigation should not detract from the heroic response of more than 1,600 firefighters that risked their health and safety fighting Canyon Fire 2 over the six day duration.