An open letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council Monica Rodriguez and the City of Los Angeles
The La Tuna/Tujunga fire that broke out on September 1, 2017, the air support and crews were definitely our heroes of this battle due to the difficult terrain. However the air response time from the City of Los Angeles fire leadership was slow and at best seemed to be ludicrous. The fire should have never gotten to the point that it did.
If property owners are required to have clearance of two hundred feet around any standing structures and clearance from adjoining roadway or properties, then how come the roadway adjoining the 210 freeway is not subject to the clearance that could have helped lessen the extent of the fires? Should we not have the same compliance from Caltrans and the City of Los Angeles?
The first ground responder at 12P.M. was an Angeles National Forest vehicle and they came out of Cal Fire – Little Tujunga Fire Station. Then the County of Los Angeles came, had their hoses out and were ready to respond, when they left the area. Do what you got to do and perform the job, irregardless of whose jurisdiction and/or responsibility it is. Let’s put out the fire first than sort it out later. From a small fire on the south side of the 210 freeway (La Tuna Canyon) it had then jumped to the north of the 210 freeway into the hills of Tujunga. From our view point it was approximately 1:00 pm. When the County of Los Angeles was leaving you could hear in this video, which was provided by The Foothills Paper saying “You better get someone out here now.” This was communicated by handheld devices. We also noted that there was no airdrop agencies in the air to help facilitate the fire battle that was mounting. www.facebook.com/ emergencyphotographersnetwork/Videos/849203408570050/? free=gs&dti= 835486876578254&hc_ location=group
By then our fire Chief Ralph Terrazas made a statement on television that everything was under control. The response did not transpire until 1:45 and by then the fire was moving into the community (Verdugo Hills Tujunga area) at an alarming rate. The release (10 minutes away) found our airplanes (firedrop units) and helicopters still sitting at Whiteman Airport and Van Nuys at 2 P.M. This is deplorable in our opinion. Why was the Tujunga Station 74 Fire Department not dispatched to an area and hillside they know well, instead of being sent down to Sunland, Shadow Hills, and the Burbank area? We had the East LA department at the end of our street as well as other agencies that were unfamiliar with our area. Then as we got some drops, not one fire retardant was released by the homes that had fire within 500 feet of them.
Then the super scooper water-drop planes were not allowed after sunset to fly over Verdugo Hills/Tujunga at night, but they did for the city of Burbank. Does that mean that’s where the money is and let us go so we don’t have to pay with Los Angeles city funds, but by Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The firefighters at the end of Inspiration Way left at approx. 12A.M., while fires were still burning within 1000 feet of homes in our area. What was that all about? Then on Saturday morning at 9:15 A.M., while in our neighbor’s backyard, we watched a small wind pick up and saw the flames rise to approximately 50 feet or more and race up the hillside.
However, the ground state forestry fighters and the big tractor did their best to try and create fire breaks (from our view the air drop crew did not show up for at least 30 minutes).
Even with their help our community lost 2 homes and 8,000 acres were burned. There was a gate open off of Inspiration Way(under the Edison power lines)that could have allowed pumpers and firefighters with safety and turn outs available to perhaps help contain the fire that burned the 2 houses lost up on Verdugo Crestline Drive.
We also believe there should have been some Los Angeles Police Department officers available to keep out the non-area lookie-loos in the neighborhood because they did create quite a traffic nuisance for fire equipment. With the 210 freeway being closed, a good majority of the traffic was moved on to Foothill Blvd. Also when the area suffered a power shutdown on September 2nd from approximately 10:00 am to about 7:45 pm, the traffic lights were out from Mt. Gleason to Pinewood Ave. (Foothill Blvd.) to the adjoining area south of Foothill Blvd. to the fire areas, why did we not receive aid of the Traffic Control personal to help control the traffic in a very dangerous situation?
Please do what you got to do and perform the job that is paid for by all the residents of our city, county, state. Is this the kind of service we pay for? We believed in the different agencies to perform and we were let down. How do we fix this broken system?
We do want to thank all the fire fighters, volunteers and people involved in fighting this fire from the bottom of all of our hearts.