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Red Tape Kept 'Copters Grounded During Fires

More details are coming out about what went wrong during last month's wildfires in Southern California. State fire officials say bureaucratic red-tape kept military helicopters grounded, and that's pr

Red Tape Kept 'Copters Grounded During Fires

More details are coming out about what went wrong during last month's wildfires in Southern California. State fire officials say bureaucratic red-tape kept military helicopters grounded, and that's prompting lawmakers to act. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps has the story.

On that first day of the fires, a dozen air tankers and five state helicopters went to work. That's a fraction of all the resources that were available. Public officials repeatedly blamed the high Santa Ana winds.

The state has released a detailed account of what went wrong, and it contradicts the statements of top public officials.

Wind was a factor in keeping planes grounded. But military choppers could not take off because there weren't enough supervisors to go with pilots.

Senator Dianne Feinstein says she wants legislation to cut through red tape next time.

Feinstein: We will work to more strategically locate federal assets, particularly military assets, to streamline the request process for military assets and re-evaluate their stationing for more rapid mobilization in Southern California.

Feinstein has introduced a package of other fire-related bills. The federal government would reward communities that enhance local building codes with national fire standards. Other bills would raise the federal cap on financial aid for fire victims and help them make mortgage payments. Another bill would create a national arson registry for convicted fire-starters.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.