Thursday, August 16, 2012
The U.S. Forest Service has decided to allow nighttime aerial attacks on wildfires in Southern California in a change of policy spurred by controversy over a 2009 blaze that grew to 250 square miles and threatened Los Angeles suburbs, congressional representatives announced Thursday.
The decision was announced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and area Reps. Adam Schiff and Buck McKeon.
The Forest Service has previously restricted aerial firefighting operations to daylight hours for safety reasons.
The issue has been under discussion since the 2009 Station Fire burned 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest in 2009. Some critics of the firefighting effort contend it could have been contained when it was just a small blaze if nighttime aerial firefighting had been allowed. There was no immediate word on how long it will take to implement the change, which will be limited to Southern California.
"This is long overdue, but a welcome policy change by the Forest Service," Feinstein said in a statement. "With California's hot, dry conditions, 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 use aviation assets around the clock to save lives and property in California."