8 Feb 2010, 2:25pm
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La Cañada mayor blames Forest Service for slides

By Tony Castro, Los Angeles Daily News, 02/07/2010 [here]

Officials are scrambling to avoid a repeat of the weekend’s hillside mudslides that damaged 43 homes in La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta and left many scratching their heads over the apparent lack of emergency preparations.

Workers hurried Sunday to empty debris basins once filled with mud in anticipation of mid-week rains feared to further endanger homes on hillsides denuded by last summer’s wildfires.

Although today’s forecast predicted mostly sunny skies and a high near 60 degrees, a 20 percent chance of rain was expected to increase to a 40 percent chance of rain by Tuesday night and a 30 percent chance of rain Wednesday morning.

Earlier Sunday, evacuation orders were lifted for residents in the mudslide area where at least nine of the mud-damaged homes were uninhabitable - possibly permanently. Some 540 residences had been evacuated in the foothill areas of La Crescenta, Acton, Altadena and La Cañada Flintridge.

“This is such a pretty community to live in, but not right now,” said a tearful Donna McLaughlin, whose La Cañada Flintridge home was flooded by Saturday’s mud flow.

Some local officials on Sunday demanded that the federal government pay for mud removal, blaming the mudslide damage on the U.S. Forest Service for scaling back firefighting efforts too early after the Station Fire broke out in late August.

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso blasted the U.S. Forest Service for allowing mud to flow from federal land into residential neighborhoods - a complaint similar to one made earlier by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

“I call on the federal government to take the responsibility to help our residents pay for cleaning up the mud,” Olhasso said at a news conference in her mud-ravaged community. “The federal government must take responsibility for their mud that is coming out of their hills.” … [more]

6 Feb 2010, 11:57pm
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Most evacuations called off after LA-area mudslide

By THOMAS WATKINS, AP, Yahoo News [here]

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. (AP) — Thunderous mudslides damaged dozens of homes, swept away cars and pushed furniture into the streets of the foothills north of Los Angeles on Saturday as intense winter rain poured down mountains denuded by a summer wildfire.

No injuries were reported but residents and emergency responders were caught off guard by the unpredicted ferocity of the storm, which damaged more than 40 homes and dozens of vehicles.

Some 540 homes were eventually evacuated at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains after heavy rains overflowed debris basins, carried away cement barricades and filled houses with mud and rocks.

Another 300 homes to the east in Sierra Madre were evacuated for much of the day, but residents were told they could return home Saturday night when another wave of rain proved tame. Flash flood warnings for foothill areas also were called off.

Some residents of La Canada Flintridge complained they were not told to get out until the brunt of the damage was done — unlike during heavy rains last month when officials repeatedly warned foothill communities to be on alert.

The pre-dawn mud flow damaged at least 43 homes, and nine have been declared uninhabitable. … [more]

Corruption, collusion, or legal thievery

By Henry Lamb, Canada Free press, Tuesday, February 2, 2010 [here]

In 2008, the Forest Service issued a land use plan that environmental organizations didn’t like. The Earthjustice Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of four environmental groups. The suit took 15 months. The bill to the federal government from Earthjustice was $279,711.40. The Western Environmental Law Center filed another lawsuit challenging the same land use plan. They represented 15 environmental groups and sent the government a bill for $199,830.65. These two outfits claim that seven attorneys spent more than 930 hours (working full time, that’s 116 days), at rates between $300 and $650 per hour.

That’s good work if you can get it.

Think that’s bad? Read on.

In September of last year, the Wildearth Guardians sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency, asking the court to prohibit FEMA from issuing flood insurance to private citizens on 52,535 structures that may lie within the range of an endangered species. The group could not sue individual land owners unless they could prove that the structure caused the death or “harm” to any endangered species. This suit is designed to block the use of privately owned land, and to collect a handsome fee from the government for doing it.

The government keeps no record of these “environmental” lawsuits. Payments, however, are made from a single budget line item called the “Judgment Fund.” The Budd-Falen Law firm in Cheyenne, Wyoming has done a yeoman’s job in researching payments made from this fund to environmental organizations. They include:

2003 10,595 payments made Total paid: $1, 081,328,420
2004 8,161 payments made Total paid: $800,450,029
2005 7,794 payments made Total paid: $1,074,131,007
2006 8.736 Payments made Total Paid: $697,968,132
2007 6,595 Payments made Total paid: 1,062,387,142

During these five years, tax dollars have funded environmental groups to the tune of $4.7 billion dollars in attorney fees alone. Another $1.6 million was paid between 2003 and 2005 from the Equal Access to Justice Act. These funds come directly from the agency that loses the suit. This doesn’t begin to include all the direct grants and contracts that are awarded to dozens of environmental groups.

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New Report Debunks Myth of “Catastrophic Wildfire”

By Matthew Koehler, New West, 2-03-10 [here]

There is no such thing as “catastrophic wildfire” in our forests, ecologically speaking. That is the central conclusion of a report released this week by the John Muir Project (JMP), a non-profit forest research and conservation organization.

The report, “The Myth of Catastrophic Wildfire: A New Ecological Paradigm of Forest Health”, is a comprehensive synthesis of the scientific evidence regarding wildland fire and its relationship to biodiversity and climate change in western U.S. forests. It stands many previously held assumptions on their heads, including the assumptions that forest fires burn mostly at high intensity (where most trees are killed), and that fires are getting more intense, as well as the assumption that high-intensity fire areas are ecologically damaged or harmed. The report finds that the scientific evidence contradicts these popular notions.

“We do not need to be afraid of the effects of wildland fire in our forests. Fire is doing important and beneficial ecological work,” said the report’s author, Dr. Chad Hanson, a forest and fire ecologist who is the Director of the John Muir Project, as well as a researcher at the University of California at Davis. “It may seem counterintuitive, but the scientific evidence is telling us that some of the very best and richest wildlife habitat in western U.S. forests occurs where fire kills most or all of the trees. These areas are relatively rare on the landscape, and the many wildlife species that depend upon the habitat created by high-intensity fire are threatened by fire suppression and post-fire logging.” … [more]

Note: Chad Hanson and the John Muir Project have a long history of suing the USFS to halt any and all logging on federal lands. Author Matthew Koehler is Executive Director of the WildWest Institute, which has also sued the USFSD numerous times to halt any and all logging. Both Hanson and Koehler are “former” members of Earth First!

3 Feb 2010, 9:13pm
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USFS cuts $2 million from Ashland project

Forest Service redirects the money away from thinning work after a suit was filed

By VICKIE ALDOUS, Medford Mail Tribune, February 03, 2010 [here]

ASHLAND — The U.S. Forest Service pulled $2 million in funding from an Ashland watershed thinning project one week after Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas and former resident Jay Lininger filed a lawsuit challenging parts of the project.

Navickas and Lininger filed the lawsuit on Jan. 15 in U.S. District Court in Medford. In the complaint, they said the 7,600-acre thinning and prescribed burning project would harm riparian areas, cause erosion, hurt water quality, degrade Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl habitat and cut into an old-growth forest reserve and a roadless area.

The Forest Service previously had received $6 million in federal economic stimulus funding to help pay for the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project, which could take up to 10 years to carry out, said Paul Galloway, acting public affairs officer for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The total cost of the project is not yet known, he said.

On Jan. 21, $2 million of the $6 million was redirected back to the Forest Service to be redistributed to other projects, Galloway said.

“There was the lawsuit and the risk associated with that of not being able to complete the project due to the litigation,” he said.

Galloway said federal stimulus funding is intended to go to projects that can produce jobs as soon as possible.

Nationally, the Forest Service redirected $10.7 million from various projects that had previously been awarded stimulus funding because of risks that those projects might not move forward quickly, Galloway said.

The $2 million redirected from the Ashland watershed thinning project was the only funding that was redirected from the Forest Service region that covers Oregon and Washington, Galloway said.

He said the Forest Service still intends to complete the Ashland thinning project within 10 years.

“We still have over $4 million in stimulus dollars that remain committed to implementing the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project,” Galloway said.

Navickas and Lininger filed the lawsuit as private citizens, not in their respective roles as councilman and ecologist for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.
… [more]

Note 1: see also City leaders urge thinning of watershed despite lawsuit threats [here]

Note 2: Ashland Forest Resiliency Project has been in planning for years. The Ashland Watershed provides the domestic water supply for the City of Ashland. It is widely recognized that fuel accumulations present high potential for large-scale, high severity wildland fire that could significantly interrupt the supply of clean water and destroy old-growth forest ecosystems. The Project’s purpose is “to protect Values At Risk, reduce hazardous fuels, reduce crown fire potential, and obtain conditions that are more resilient to wildland fires.”

Extensive hearings have been held. Citizen groups have fully vetted the plan, and modifications have been adopted to satisfy all reasonable concerns. Collaborative partners include the City of Ashland and the Nature Conservancy. None of the usual eco-litigious groups, of which there are many in SW Oregon, oppose the plan.

Eric Navickas has sued the USFS before. He is a self-described “environmental activist” with a history of disrupting public meetings. He also has a history of violent protest representing a group called Ashland Creek First!. He opposes forest restoration for fire resiliency and has supported homeless camps in the Ashland watershed despite the obvious fire risk and hazard. The list of his radical pro-holocaust anti-forest activities goes on and on. Eric Navickas is a real piece of work.

Jay Lininger lives in Arizona. He also has a long history of suing the USFS, although the Center for Biological Diversity is not a party to this lawsuit. Between 2000 and 2009, Center for Biological Diversity filed at least 409 lawsuits in the federal district courts and at least 165 appeals in the federal appellate courts.

The outcome of the delay, and the termination of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project if the appellants are successful, could be the destruction of the Ashland Watershed by catastrophic fire. The Ashland Watershed is immediately southwest of the city, so wildfire could also do serious damage to homes and threaten lives.

20 Jan 2010, 12:26am
Latest Climate News Latest Fire News
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Overnight Evacuations Ordered in Burn Areas for Biggest Storm Yet

KTLA News, 10:29 PM PST, January 19, 2010 [here]

TUJUNGA-Mandatory storm evacuations are in place for several communities in the foothill area of Southern Tujunga previously affected by the Station Fire.

Residents located within La Crescenta, La Canada Flintridge, Acton, and the foothill area of Southern Tujunga, including the communities of Alpine Village, Seven Hills, Blanchard Canyon Road, Tujunga, and Riverwood are very strongly urged to be evacuated by 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning in anticipation for especially heavy rainstorms due in the area Wednesday afternoon.

Affected residents will be notified through Alert LA County and by door-to-door notification by LA County Sheriff’s Deputies.

The evacuations were ordered by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department Tuesday night.

The third in the week-long storm series was forecast to roll into Southern California Wednesday afternoon, bringing with it downpours, high winds and heavy snow at the higher elevations. It is expected to be one of the most significant storms to hit the area in several years.

Significant amounts of debris and mudslides are feared in areas located in the Station and Morris Fire burn areas. … [more]

18 Jan 2010, 5:54pm
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First of 3 Pacific storms hit Southern California; hillside residents prepare for mudslides

LA Times, January 18, 2010 | 11:55 am [here]

The first in a series of powerful Pacific storms began sweeping through Southern California today, causing hazardous driving conditions and high surf and prompting flash-flood warnings for fire-ravaged hillsides.

“It looks like we’re definitely in for a rainy week,” said Bill Patzert, a meteorologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “It’s going to get heavier and messier.”

Experts said the system — consisting of three major storms — could be among the most powerful to batter the region since 2005, when record rains drenched the area, causing havoc on roads and hillsides.

[Updated at 12:37 p.m.: Just after noon, the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for foothill areas burned during last year’s Station and Morris fires in the Angeles National Forest. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon and could produce more than an inch of rain an hour. Weather officials said they are concerned such intense rain could trigger mudslides. Commuters should expect heavy downpours during the afternoon commute.]

The National Weather Service was also predicting high surf and fierce winds gusting up to 75 mph, with substantial snowfall in higher elevations. The risk of flash floods and mudslides is especially severe in communities near burn areas, notably those below the 250-square-mile Station fire zone, where authorities cited a serious threat of mud and debris flows.

Officials have put in place large swaths of sandbags and concrete barriers as a precautionary move, while closing sections of Angeles Crest Highway and Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

“We are prepared to deal with anything that nature may throw at us,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Metro of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Months of preparation have gone on prior to this day.”

Officials have placed 10,000 feet of concrete storm barriers and distributed about 10,000 sandbags, said Pat DeChellis, deputy director of the L.A. County Department of Public Works. No one had yet been evacuated, officials said this morning, and no evacuations were anticipated until Wednesday or Thursday, when the third storm of the week — and potentially heaviest – is expected to roll in.

But early signs of instability are already evident, including a slide of five cubic yards of material that rolled down onto Rock Castle Drive in the La Cañada Flintridge area.

“Debris is starting to move,” DeChellis said.

Although about 75 county firefighting personnel have been dispatched to earthquake-battered Haiti, about 150 area rescue personnel are still ready to react, Metro said. … [more]

Federal agencies may have to consider climate before they act

The Obama administration may issue an order that would expand the National Environmental Policy Act’s scope to prevent global warming. The move could open up new avenues to challenge projects.

By Jim Tankersley, LA Times, January 1, 2010 [here]

Washington - The White House is poised to order all federal agencies to evaluate any major actions they take, such as building highways or logging national forests, to determine how they would contribute to and be affected by climate change, a step long sought by environmentalists.

Environmentalists say the move would provide new incentives for the government to minimize the heat-trapping gas emissions scientists blame for global warming. Republicans have opposed it as potentially inhibiting economic growth.

The new order would expand the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, a landmark statute that turns 40 today. The act already requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts such as land use, species health and air and water quality when approving projects.

By formalizing a requirement to consider effects on climate — a step some agencies already take — the administration would introduce a broad new spectrum of issues to be considered. It could also open up new avenues for environmentalists to attack, delay or halt proposed government actions. The environmental impact statements originally required by the act have become routine battlegrounds for environmentalists, developers and others.

Under the order, agencies would need to account for whether such factors as predicted rises in sea levels would affect proposed new roads along shorelines; or whether, because of temperature changes and species migration, clear-cutting a patch of forest would result in new types of trees replacing the originals.

California lawmakers mandated in 2007 that state-level environmental assessments take climate change into account.

“People will think longer and harder and smarter about what they build when they understand that the environment around them is changing,” said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club. Bookbinder was one of several environmental lawyers who petitioned the White House in 2008 to formally recognize climate considerations under the act.

The head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, said in an interview this week that federal agencies “should think about both the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, and the effects of climate change, on decisions they make.” … [more]

Note: from the Wikipedia [here]:

Nancy Helen Sutley leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Prior to being confirmed by the Senate to lead the CEQ, she served as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the city of Los Angeles, California, and as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointment to the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Sutley received a Master of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University.[3] She was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, and served as special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington, D.C. Sutley is the first prominent gay person to earn a senior role in Obama’s new administration. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate through unanimous consent on January 22, 2009.

26 Dec 2009, 12:57pm
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Environmental Groups Sue Over Prescribed Burns

By Ben Preston, Santa Barbara Independent, December 23, 2009 [here]

Los Padres National Forest Watch — an environmental watchdog group — in concert with the research-oriented California Chaparral Institute, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service last week. The groups claim there is a lack of opportunity for public input into the USFS’s decision making process for land-management policy. More specifically, they are focusing on the Tepusquet Fuels Treatment Project, a prescribed burn program the two groups maintain was approved without an environmental analysis or public hearings.

“Our number one concern is looking at the bigger picture and the long term consequences of what’s happening now,” said Richard Halsey, an ecologist from the Escondido-based Chaparral Institute. “In the end, the fuel treatment of this 18,000 acres is a political one. It’s not good land management based upon science, and that’s not good.”

However, some residents of Tepusquet Canyon, which runs from Foxen Cayon Road to Highway 166 in northern Santa Barbara County, disagreed with the allegation that the Forest Service doesn’t involve the public. “Do I like everything they do? No,” said Linda Tunnel. “But they do try their darndest to work with the homeowners who live over here. When we have concerns, they always listen to us and have been very open about that they can and can’t do.” Tunnel is among the approximately 160 families who live in Tepusquet Canyon. The La Brea Fire, which burned nearly 90,000 acres in August, came fairly close to her home. “I want to be prepared, and if the Forest Service can do it using winter [prescribed] burns and other ways that can protect us, I’m in favor of it,” she continued, adding that she hadn’t seen anyone from Los Padres National Forest Watch or the Chaparral Institute at any of the public meetings she attended. … [more]

17 Dec 2009, 2:30pm
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Calif. Sheep Fire probably arson

UPI.com, Dec. 16, 2009 [here]

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 16 (UPI) — A wildfire that burned for seven days in Southern California in October was caused by human activity and was probably deliberately set, investigators say.

The Sheep Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains charred an 8-mile swath in San Bernardino National Forest and destroyed one home. John Miller, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, said the fire began in a remote area hundreds of feet from the nearest roads, suggesting arson was more likely than an accident, The Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise reported Tuesday.

“When you look at where it started, you ask, what would start a fire here?” Miller said.

Investigators have ruled out lightning and power lines as possible causes.

The fire began Oct. 3, on a day when it was whipped up by Santa Ana winds. The Forest Service has appealed to anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area that day to come forward.

Group intends to sue after retardant kills fish

MercuryNews.com, 12/16/2009 [here]

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—An environmental group intends to sue federal, state and county agencies after fire retardant used on Santa Barbara wildfires killed some 50 protected steelhead trout this year.
The Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics filed a notice Wednesday that they intend to sue the U.S. Department of Commerce, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Santa Barbara County Fire Department. A 60-day notice to sue is required by the Endangered Species Act.

According to the letter, the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act and should regulate the use of the toxic fire retardant within the steelhead’s protected habitat. The fish were killed during the Jesusita Fire in May.

Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. David Sadecki said the county’s helicopters drop only water and referred questions about retardant to the Forest Service. A spokesman for the agency could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Department of Commerce referred questions to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which had no comment.

There are now less than 500 adult steelhead where the fish once thrived in the Santa Ynez, Ventura and Santa Clara rivers and Malibu Creek.

Australia accused of cooking carbon books

By Gregg Borschmann for Radio National, ABC News, Dec 13, 2009 [here]

By ignoring a massive rise in polluting gases from the agricultural and forestry industries, Australia has managed to make its overall emissions seem much lower than they actually are.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is allowed to increase carbon emissions by 8 per cent compared to 1990 levels.

But figures supplied to the United Nations earlier this year show that between 1990 and 2007, Australia’s real carbon emissions actually rose by 82 per cent.

The dramatic increase has mainly been caused by rising emissions from Australia’s rural lands, caused by bushfires and drought.

But it is those very same agricultural, grazing and grasslands that both major political parties in Australia hope will help offset the country’s rising industrial emissions.

Australia has led the charge on proposed land use rule changes to the new global climate deal. The changes will open the door to the bonanza of green carbon that can be stored away in the world’s rural lands.

But the move is deeply dividing the Copenhagen conference. Australia - and other big players - have been accused of a trying to pull off a rort [here]. … [more]

13 Dec 2009, 11:11am
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San Francisco to pay $7 million for Stanislaus forest fires

Sacramento Bee, Dec. 12, 2009 [here]

The city of San Francisco has paid $7 million to settle federal claims for wildfire damage to a national forest allegedly caused by negligent maintenance of power line rights of way.

The 1999 Pilot fire and the 2004 Early fire burned 5,698 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County.

The fires resulted from trees growing too close to the high-voltage power transmission lines of Hetch Hetchy Water and Power, owned by San Francisco, according to two civil lawsuits brought by the federal government against the city and its utilities agency.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Swann, 1913 legislation granted the city rights of way on federal lands, including the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, for a hydroelectric system that delivers year-round, potable water and power to San Francisco and neighboring communities.

Hetch Hetchy is charged with clearing the rights of way, and California law requires the agency to maintain a 10-foot clearance in all directions between its power lines and vegetation, Swann said.

The Pilot fire ignited on Aug. 23, 1999, about 10 miles east of Groveland. U.S. Forest Service investigators determined that the fire was sparked by an electrical discharge from a power line to a cedar tree that had grown to within a few feet of the line, a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court alleges.

On Aug. 9, 2004, the Early fire ignited about six miles northeast of the Pilot fire location. Forest Service investigators again established that the blaze was sparked by an electrical discharge from a power line to an oak tree, a lawsuit in Fresno federal court alleges.

Some settlement funds will finance restoration efforts, said Regional Forester Randy Moore.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney’s office, said the settlement is “fair and avoids the added costs of litigation.”

12 Dec 2009, 8:41pm
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Landslide Threatens California Homes, Strands 90 Vehicles

Fox News, December 12, 2009 [here]

LOS ANGELES — Another in a series of winter storms moved into California Saturday, bringing rain and snow while sending mud and debris on to highways.

As many as 90 vehicles were stranded after rocks and mud flowed down the hillside amid heavy rains along a 12-mile stretch of Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles in an area where a massive wildfire burned earlier this year, said county fire Capt. Frank Reynoso. No injuries were reported.

Reynoso said about half of the vehicles had been freed Saturday afternoon but dozens remained stuck, and some would have to be retrieved after Saturday.

Several small slides have been reported on the highway between La Canada Flintridge and Mount Wilson, and the road was to remain closed indefinitely, the California Highway Patrol said.

The National Weather Service posted a flash flood warning for the area, and a less-urgent flash flood watch was in effect for many other parts of the region.

Foothill communities near slopes scorched by the fire were urged to be on guard, and major canyon roads through the burn areas remained closed. … [more]

10 Dec 2009, 8:09pm
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Trail Gnomes Charged in Jesusita Fire

Misdemeanors Could Mean Fines, Jail Time, and Civil Penalties for Craig Ilenstine and Dana Larsen

By Ray Ford and Chris Meagher, Santa Barbara Independent, December 10, 2009 [here]

More than seven months after the Jesusita Fire scorched nearly 9,000 acres of the Santa Barbara front country — destroying 80 homes, damaging another 15, seriously injuring numerous firefighters, and costing $17 million in its wake — two men have been charged in connection with the start of the fire.

On Thursday, the District Attorney’s office filed charges against Craig Ilenstine, 50, and Dana Larsen, 45, who have each been hit with one misdemeanor count of not obtaining a “hot work” permit when they were allegedly doing trail work on May 5, 2009, the day the fire broke out. The D.A.’s press release indicated that the investigation and evidence collected by the fire investigation team showed that Ilenstine and Larsen were using gas-powered weed cutters to trim vegetation along the Jesusita Trail in the area where the fire started at approximately 1:45 p.m. It’s been long speculated that the fire was caused by trail work of this type, which is usually conducted by volunteers who are known colloquially in hiking and mountain biking circles as “trail gnomes.”

The charge is a violation of California Fire Code, Chapter 26, Section 2601, which requires that a permit must first be obtained from the fire marshal for any “welding, cutting, open torches, and other hot work operations and equipment.” …

According to one such volunteer who’s done 14 years of trail work, this is the first mention of a hot work permit. “None of the local volunteer organizations have ever been informed about, or required to have a hot work permit in the past,” he said. …

Despite community sentiment calling for much harsher charges — especially given the lack of serious prosecution for those thought to be the cause of the November 2008 Tea Fire — the D.A.’s office determined after a lengthy investigation that it would not bring felony charges against the men. That’s due to a “good faith belief” that the D.A. could not “prove beyond a reasonable doubt the required mental state” needed to convict the men of felonies.

What prosecutors do intend to do, however, is seek restitution on behalf of the victims of the Jesusita Fire, a pricetag that’s floating in the millions of dollars, considering the injured firefighters and destroyed homes. … [much more]

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