© a Quinn Martin production
Lots of you have been asking what you can do to help. This year's resolution is to affect change on The Angeles and take back OUR forest. I will have an online petition circulating soon. Thanks everybody.

I originally wanted to blog about my adventures in the San Gabriel Mountains. I have some good stories, like the time I took a donkey to Ralph's Supermarket. But then the Station Fire started. I realized that there is much that needs to be brought to the attention of the mountain going public. Most folks are kept in the dark about how the Angeles National Forest operates. I will raise issues that are important to me, which are hopefully important to all citizens, but if you have any suggestions for discussion here, I am willing.

Here's the big agenda: Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. I've made a few smart remarks and cryptic comments about her. But now, with the backing of some knowledgeable and trusted friends, it is time for a concerted effort to have her removed from her post. Stay tuned for details. And if you have any information you would like to contribute, anonymously or not, email me at gregsweet4@yahoo.com

I will get to some of the stories, sooner or later. Also, I want to make it clear that I no longer work at Adams' Pack Station, that these words are my own, and that the pack station is not the source of my information - they don't want trouble.

Vehicle Fire - Big Santa Anita Canyon - Christmas Day

UPDATE: I received this comment on my YouTube Channel...

"Hi Greg,
This is Kris Lowe, the Captain from Sierra Madre who fought the Chantry Vehicle Fire. Thanks for sharing the video of the fire. I'm sorry we couldn't use your suggestion for water, we don't have a hard suction on that engine, so we can't draw water that way. It would have been great. Monrovia FD came up with a water tender to refill our engine and Arcadia's. Then Forest Service came to do the clean up to make sure any hot spots were out. Its great when you have 4 agencies working together. Can I post your video on my Facebook?
Thanks again for the video! Kris"

Video #1: I went to drop off some home made peanut brittle for my friends at Adams' Pack Station today, Christmas Day, and as I passed the gate to Santa Anita Dam, I saw a little smoke on the road a couple of turns up. My first thought was that someone had started a bonfire in one of the turn-outs. My second thought was to go put it out. When I saw this vehicle on fire, the driver was already out, but the grass on the side of the road was on fire. I wanted to go smother it, but I didn't want to get blown up by the gas tank. Just as I decided to go for it and stop the fire from getting into the forest, Sierra Madre Fire Department showed up with a pumper.

Video #2: I drove up the road a piece to get out of the way of the firefighters then walked back. The Sierra Madre pumper quickly ran out of water, but then Arcadia FD showed up with more. At one point you can see the woman in charge (SMFD) look for a nearby stream and ask others to find a water source. I went down to explain to them that the concrete tank that they were parked in front of was in fact part of an active water system, but they may have to cut the lock off of the hatch to get at the water, and that there is also a blue fire hydrant down the road that needs to be activated by the button in the lock box next to it. Arcadia FD must have known about the hydrant, since it is their property, and they seemed to have plenty of water.

Video #3: Arcadia FD spraying a fire-retardant foam over the side of the road where the fire had spread.

Video #4: Finally, Forest Service shows up - AFTER Sierra Madre and Arcadia Fire Departments had put the fire out.

Packing Pictures

Pictures of me and donkeys packing. I will add more here as I find them on my computer. Hover over 'Notes' at bottom right for more info (which is also under construction) and click on 'Link' for full size images on Flickr...

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Don't worry, I'll get to the Jody post that I promised, but I couldn't type it today because I remembered that I told a friend I would visit Big Santa Anita Canyon. So here's a quickie...

When one carries a camera in the mountains, one not only gets photos of the mountains, but photos from the mountains. These are shots from the road to Chantry Flat. There was a tremendous amount of dust from the Station Fire burn area. Notice how much is being kicked up at the quarries in Irwindale, now imagine 160,00+ acres of the same thing blowing down on us. Thanks Jody. And you thought you had problems with the AQMD before!

Click to enlarge...

"...They're just making excuses."

In the Los Angeles Times today Paul Pringle publishes a well-researched article about that internal Forest Service review that cited rugged terrain as a reason not to order water drops on the second day of the Station Fire. Mr Pringle has been diligently on the case since the beginning of the fire and he is the only one in mainstream media that is trying to shed light on the mismanagement of The Angeles. But I will give myself a pat on the back here (actually a shameless self-promotion to keep you coming back) and tell you that I have been providing information. I sent the reporter my post on the so-called rugged terrain [here] along with some names and e-mail addresses. On November 24th I got a return email from him that simply said: "This is great. Thanks very much."

From the article: "It just irks me to see . . . that they're blaming the terrain for why no action was taken," said Don Feser, a former fire chief for the forest who retired in 2007. "They're just making excuses." Don Feser is the man that left The Angeles because of Jody Noiron's attitude [story here]. Some, namely Jody, may say that Feser's contributions to Pringle's article is just sour grapes. It's true that Don can't stand Jody, but he knows what he is talking about. He was a great asset to the forest and losing him was just one more example of how Jody Noiron is screwing-up this forest.

The article also says (please read the article) that the Forest Service is still denying that the cost-cutting memo had anything to do with the decision to wave-off helicopters. Naturally, they are lying, unless they are saying that they ignore the direction of the Regional Forester. But Jody could easily have blamed the whole thing on Randy Moore and his memo if she has nothing to hide. Something else is going on. The way this whole thing is being handled is fishy. It is a case of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks." Why is Jody Noiron so obstinate? Could it be that she has a feminist chip on her shoulder? The Forest Service does have a chauvinistic past, but that's not the case anymore. It's true that her employees call her a "bitch" because she is a woman, but if she were a man they would call her an "asshole", so it really has nothing to do with her gender. I offered an explanation of pride in a previous post, but that's not the whole story. In my next post I will tell you what is really going on.

Inaccessible? Really?

Tell that to these guys...

"A Forest Service Hand-crew Hikes Dozer Line On The "Station Fire" During Rehabilitation Operations On September 11th 2009. The temperature was in the triple digits and the hike was miles and miles long on steep terrain. This was on the Tujunga side of the fire."

Oh! What A World, What A World!

Sometimes I really amuse myself. Not to make light of any potential disasters, but I was just listening to the uncertainty of the radio weather forecaster about the saturation of the burned hillsides and I had to laugh. I thought about how during and just after the Station Fire Jody Noiron could be seen around town and on television talking about "soil hydrophobicity", whereby the ground can be coated with waxy resins from the Chaparral plants giving the soil a water-repellent property. Of course Jody knows about hydrophobicity. I've seen The Wizard of Oz and I know what happens when one throws water on a witch.

Yeah, Right!

Employees of the Angeles National Forest claim that they do not read this blog, but just after I posted the piece below, and mentioned that the Angeles website still has the fire level at 'EXTREME', somebody changed it to 'HIGH'.

More Snow 12/08/2009

Good thing this storm was so cold. Not only is the snow a beautiful December sight, but the impact on the barren soil is less. However, we could see trouble if the next storm, which looks like it is picking up tropical moisture, is a warm one. It could deposit its own rain and melt the snow at the same time. By the way, the Angeles website still has the fire danger at 'EXTREME'.

Mt Wilson looking toward Mt Waterman & Twin Peaks

(click to enlarge)

Mt Baldy Ski Lift

Grapevine Cam


Like Water off a Finch's Back

The backyard Lesser Goldfinches are eating thistle seed in the pouring rain.

Interspecific Competition

Oh, how I wish I speak like Sam Elliott or Stacy Keach...

John Muir On The San Gabriels

Naturalist/Preservationist (NOT Conservationist) John Muir talks about the San Gabriel Mountains, and tells the story of hit first experience in the range. He is describing a trip up Eaton Canyon to a peak above Altadena that now bears his name.

After saying so much for human culture in my last, perhaps I may now be allowed a word for wildness -- the wildness of this southland, pure and untamable as the sea.

In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage. Not even in the Sierra have I ever made the acquaintance of mountains more rigidly inaccessible. The slopes are exceptionally steep and insecure to the foot of the explorer, however great his strength or skill may be, but thorny chaparral constitutes their chief defense. With the exception of little park and garden spots not visible in comprehensive views, the entire surface is covered with it, from the highest peaks to the plain. It swoops into every hollow and swells over every ridge, gracefully complying with the varied topography, in shaggy, ungovernable exuberance, fairly dwarfing the utmost efforts of human culture out of sight and mind.

But in the very heart of this thorny wilderness, down in the dells, you may find gardens filled with the fairest flowers, that any child would love, and unapproachable linns lined with lilies and ferns, where the ousel builds its mossy hut and sings in chorus with the white falling water. Bears, also, and panthers, wolves, wildcats; wood rats, squirrels, foxes, snakes, and innumerable birds, all find grateful homes here, adding wildness to wildness in glorious profusion and variety.

Where the coast ranges and the Sierra Nevada come together we find a very complicated system of short ranges, the geology and topography of which is yet hidden, and many years of laborious study must be given for anything like a complete interpretation of them. The San Gabriel is one or more of these ranges, forty or fifty miles long, and half as broad, extending from the Cajon Pass on the east, to the Santa Monica and Santa Susanna ranges on the west. San Antonio, the dominating peak, rises towards the eastern extremity of the range to a height of about six thousand feet [actually 10,064ft], forming a sure landmark throughout the valley and all the way down to the coast, without, however, possessing much striking individuality. The whole range, seen from the plain, with the hot sun beating upon its southern slopes, wears a terribly forbidding aspect. There is nothing of the grandeur of snow, or glaciers, or deep forests, to excite curiosity or adventure; no trace of gardens or waterfalls. From base to summit all seems gray, barren, silent -- dead, bleached bones of mountains, overgrown with scrubby bushes, like gray moss. But all mountains are full of hidden beauty, and the next day after my arrival at Pasadena I supplied myself with bread and eagerly set out to give myself to their keeping.

On the first day of my excursion I went only as far as the mouth of Eaton Canyon, because the heat was oppressive, and a pair of new shoes were chafing my feet to such an extent that walking began to be painful. While looking for a camping ground among the boulder beds of the canyon, I came upon a strange, dark man of doubtful parentage. He kindly invited me to camp with him, and led me to his little hut. All my conjectures as to his nationality failed, and no wonder, since his father was Irish and mother Spanish, a mixture not often met even in California. He happened to be out of candles, so we sat in the dark while he gave me a sketch of his life, which was exceedingly picturesque. Then he showed me his plans for the future. He was going to settle among these canyon boulders, and make money, and marry a Spanish woman. People mine for irrigating water along the foothills as for gold. He is now driving a prospecting tunnel into a spur of the mountains back of his cabin. "My prospect is good," he said, "and if I strike a strong flow, I shall soon be worth five or ten thousand dollars. That flat out there, " he continued, referring to a small, irregular patch of gravelly detritus that had been sorted out and deposited by Eaton Creek during some flood season, "is large enough for a nice orange grove, and, after watering my own trees, I can sell water down the valley; and then the hillside back of the cabin will do for vines, and I can keep bees, for the white sage and black sage up the mountains is full of honey. You see, I've got a good thing." All this prospective affluence in the sunken, boulder-choked flood-bed of Eaton Creek! Most home-seekers would as soon think of settling on the summit of San Antonio.

Half an hour's easy rambling up the canyon brought me to the foot of "The Fall," famous throughout the valley settlements as the finest yet discovered in the range. It is a charming little thing, with a voice sweet as a songbird's, leaping some thirty-five or forty feet into a round, mirror pool. The cliff back of it and on both sides is completely covered with thick, furry mosses, and the white fall shines against the green like a silver instrument in a velvet case. Here come the Gabriel lads and lassies from the commonplace orange groves, to make love and gather ferns and dabble away their hot holidays in the cool pool. They are fortunate in finding so fresh a retreat so near their homes. It is the Yosemite of San Gabriel. The walls, though not of the true Yosemite type either in form or sculpture, rise to a height of nearly two thousand feet. Ferns are abundant on all the rocks within reach of the spray, and picturesque maples and sycamores spread a grateful shade over a rich profusion of wild flowers that grow among the boulders, from the edge of the pool a mile or more down the dell-like bottom of the valley, the whole forming a charming little poem of wildness -- the vestibule of these shaggy mountain temples.

The foot of the fall is about a thousand feet above the level of the sea, and here climbing begins. I made my way out of the valley on the west side, followed the ridge that forms the western rim of the Eaton Basin to the summit of one of the principal peaks, thence crossed the middle of the basin, forcing a way over its many subordinate ridges, and out over the eastern rim, and from first to last during three days spent in this excursion, I had to contend with the richest, most self-possessed and uncompromising chaparral I have every enjoyed since first my mountaineering began.

For a hundred feet or so the ascent was practicable only by means of bosses of the club moss that clings to the rock. Above this the ridge is weathered away to a slender knife-edge for a distance of two or three hundred yards, and thence to the summit it is a bristly mane of chaparral. Here and there small openings occur, commanding grand views of the valley and beyond to the ocean. These are favorite outlooks and resting places for bears, wolves, and wildcats. In the densest places I came upon woodrat villages whose huts were from four to eight feet high, built in the same style of architecture as those of the muskrats.

The day was nearly done. I reached the summit and I had time to make only a hasty survey of the topography of the wild basin now outspread maplike beneath, and to drink in the rare loveliness of the sunlight before hastening down in search of water. Pushing through another mile of chaparral, I emerged into one of the most beautiful parklike groves of live oak I ever saw. The ground beneath was planted only with aspidiums and brier roses. At the foot of the grove I came to the dry channel of one of the tributary streams, but, following it down a short distance, I descried a few specimens of the scarlet mimulus; and I was assured that water was near. I found about a bucketful in a granite bowl, but it was full of leaves and beetles, making a sort of brown coffee that could be rendered available only by filtering it through sand and charcoal. This I resolved to do in case the night came on before I found better. Following the channel a mile farther down to its confluence with another, larger tributary, I found a lot of boulder pools, clear as crystal, and brimming full, linked together by little glistening currents just strong enough to sing. Flowers in full bloom adorned the banks, lilies ten feet high, and luxuriant ferns arching over one another in lavish abundance, while a noble old live oak spread its rugged boughs over all, forming one of the most perfect and most secluded of Nature's gardens. Here I camped, making my bed on smooth cobblestones.

Next morning, pushing up the channel of a tributary that takes its rise on Mount San Antonio, I passed many lovely gardens watered by oozing currentlets, every one of which had lilies in them in the full pomp of bloom, and a rich growth of ferns, chiefly woodwardias and aspidiums and maidenhairs; but toward the base of the mountain the channel was dry, and the chaparral closed over from bank to bank, so that I was compelled to creep more than a mile on hands and knees.

In one spot I found an opening in the thorny sky where I could stand erect, and on the further side of the opening discovered a small pool. "Now, HERE," I said, "I must be careful in creeping, for the birds of the neighborhood come here to drink, and the rattlesnakes come here to catch them." I then began to cast my eye along the channel, perhaps instinctively feeling a snaky atmosphere, and finally discovered one rattler between my feet. But there was a bashful look in his eye, and a withdrawing, deprecating kink in his neck that showed plainly as words could tell that he would not strike, and only wished to be let alone. I therefore passed on, lifting my foot a little higher than usual, and left him to enjoy his life in this his own home.

My next camp was near the heart of the basin, at the head of a grand system of cascades from ten to two hundred feet high, one following the other in close succession and making a total descent of nearly seventeen hundred feet. The rocks above me leaned over in a threatening way and were full of seams, making the camp a very unsafe one during an earthquake.

Next day the chaparral, in ascending the eastern rim of the basin, was, if possible, denser and more stubbornly bayoneted than ever. I followed bear trails, where in some places I found tufts of their hair that had been pulled out in squeezing a way through; but there was much of a very interesting character that far overpaid all my pains. Most of the plants are identical with those of the Sierra, but there are quite a number of Mexican species. One coniferous tree was all I found. This is a spruce of a species new to me, Douglasii macrocarpa [now Pseudotsuga macrocarpa].

My last camp was down at the narrow, notched bottom of a dry channel, the only open way for the life in the neighborhood. I therefore lay between two fires, built to fence out snakes and wolves.

From the summit of the eastern rim I had a glorious view of the valley out to the ocean, which would require a whole book for its description. My bread gave out a day before reaching the settlements, but I felt all the fresher and clearer for the fast.

Another Snow Job?

I got an indirect report recently from a retired employee of the Angeles National Forest who used to hold a highly-ranked office. This person said that there is a new trailer parked up at Mount Waterman, the kind of trailer that one might use as a temporary construction office, and this person seemed to be concerned about it.

Now, I don't know for sure what the trailer is doing there, but we do know that the ski facility on Waterman had suffered competitively because they do not have snow making capabilities, and that the Newcomb family (Lynn Newcomb Jr.) has been trying to resurrect the resort. According to the Mt Waterman Wikipedia page "there is a 5 million gallon, tadpole-filled reservoir for a future snowmaking system." I presume that the trailer is associated with these snow making operations.

Considering what I have already told you about the new reservoir on Mt Baldy, I wonder if any of the proper procedures were followed in allowing this development on Mt Waterman. Maybe they did everything right, but we have no reason to believe that they did. Rest assured, the Forest Service's internal investigation authority has been contacted.

Incidentally, I have been hearing that managers on the Los Angeles River Ranger District, where Mt Waterman is located, may have had something to do with the Mt Baldy reservoir, even though it is on the San Gabriel River Ranger District. I don't know yet what that is about, but Jody Noiron is the supervisor over all three districts, and any shenanigans on the forest go back to her.

My Voice Is Being Heard

I got a voicemail message yesterday from the office of LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. I returned the call today and I was thanked for all the valuable information and resources. The representative updated me on all of the discussions, and with whom, are being had about the Station Fire.

I expressed my opinion that the fire was just an example of the poor and under management of The Angeles, and that a major reform is necessary on our local forest. I reminded them just how important The Angeles is to the physical and emotional well-being of so many Angelinos, and that Mr. Antonovich, an outdoorsman himself, ought to be sympathetic to the plight of our mountains.

Of course, I got very diplomatic responses to my concerns, but I think it is a positive sign that they called me back and are listening to citizens. The County is also pushing very hard for help from Congress and Senator Feinstein (who reportedly hates Jody Noiron, by the way) in reforming the management of The Angeles.

First Snow of 2009/2010 Season

Sunday, November 29th 2009 from Mt Wilson Towercam

(click to enlarge)

Miss Management

Ha, ha. I just read on a wildland firefighters' forum that the new nickname for Jody Noiron is "Miss Management"!

Reservoir Dogs

About two months ago I learned about yet another underhanded thing that Angeles National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron has done. In fact, it may be criminal; or ought to be. It seems that she approved the construction of the new snow-making reservoir at Baldy Notch (Mt. Baldy Ski Resort) without any Environmental Impact Report, without a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) study, and without even so much as a Negative Declaration.

I was first told that it was a one million gallon reservoir, but it is actually nine million gallons. It seems that a diversion of this quantity of water from its natural course is worthy of investigation. Besides, it's the law; many laws.

So I took this information to the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona (actually, I e-mailed it). I was beginning to think they weren't interested or missed the e-mail or something because they never got back to me. Finally I got a letter from the FSEEE - the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. This was established as an internal watchdog group of various "ologists" whose first loyalty is to their respective science, and not to the agency itself. As we can see, there is a need for them.

A representative of FSEEE told me that she first searched the databases for information on this new reservoir but found no mention of it. She admitted that sometimes the information is slow and the websites are difficult to use. So she made a few phone calls straight to the Angeles National Forest and was "shuffled around" until she was told that somebody would get back to her. Nobody did.

In the meantime, I heard that it caused quite a stir in the forest. And Jody was especially pissed because she has a gag order in effect (have you noticed they shut down their Twitter news feed?). Her first reaction was to pull the permit of the ski resort. Typical. But she realized that this would just bring more attention to the matter when she would have to explain why the facility was locked down. Instead she took it out on an employee that she suspects of leaking the information. She was suspended without pay. Also typical.

Now, I don't know this employee; I don't even know her name or where she works. I don't get my information from a Forest Service employee. So I honestly don't know the route this info took to get to me, but I suspect most of the employees, at least on the San Gabriel River Ranger District, all knew about the reservoir. There are not that many employees and word gets 'round. And I am the one that contacted the CBD, not this innocent employee.

I contacted the FSEEE rep again and told her what had happened. Another part of the FSEEE's mission is to protect whistle-blowers. She sounded appalled and is going to look into the matter. Since then I have learned that the suspended employee has secured an attorney. This attorney has apparently had previous run-ins with Jody Noiron. He is now wondering what the heck is going on in the Angeles and why so many employees are going to him with cases against Jody. I also heard that this lawyer is interested in trying to get her removed. Are you starting to believe me when I tell you she's an intolerable witch?

(click to enlarge)

I am disappointed to say that a couple of people that seemed to be good for the forest may also be culpable in this.

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire. Where There's Smoke & Mirrors, There's Jody

On Saturday, November 14th, Paul Pringle wrote an article in the LA Times about the recently released internal review of the Station Fire. The review blames steep terrain for the expanse of the fire because it was too steep to allow firefighters in to cut lines. Paul's article quotes Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich as calling the findings a "whitewash". I will show how this whole thing nothing short of a cover-up.

The man in charge of the investigation, Forest Service Deputy Chief James Hubbard, said "The review looked at the fire through the commanders' eyes. Whether some other action could have changed things, we really didn't look at that." How ridiculous is that? Wasn't the whole idea to find out if some other action could have changed things? And the investigation team only interviewed a few select employees. Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron still has a gag order on the Angeles National Forest, and I guarantee the only people the team spoke with are those that Jody allowed to speak with them. I'm sure those that did speak had something to lose by telling the real story. They may have been partially to blame themselves, or Jody, as she so often does, may have threatened them with termination if they diverted from her script.

The review is available from the Angeles National Forest website here:

In case sombody gets the idea to move or remove it, I have put it up on File Den here:
http://www.fileden.com/files/2009/9/24/2583863/station-report-11-13- 2009.pdf

Safety Über Alles

Jody Noiron uses safety as an excuse for everything. Whenever she doesn't want to make a decision, or doesn't want the consequences of making a decision, or just doesn't want to be bothered, she shuts down the forest and forest operations, citing safety as the reason. And nobody wants to argue with people's safety. She also does this to make it look like she is doing something when she is really doing nothing. And in the case of the Station Fire, Jody used firefighter safety to make it sound like she did something when she actually did nothing.

Fighting fire is inherently a risky business. Firefighters accept the risks, and are disappointed when they are not allowed to do their job. No firefighter wants to get hurt, and they calculate the risks as situations arise. They know their abilities and their limits. The last thing they need is a paranoid supervisor with a crippling fear of being personally sued.

Steep Terrain

The review states that topography made it "impossible" to fight the Station Fire on it's second and third day (IMPOSSIBLE, mind you. This word is used several times). The front country of the San Gabriels is the third steepest mountain range in North America, next to the Eastern Sierra Nevada and the Grand Tetons. This geological fact is not likely to change in the near future. So is the Forest Service suggesting that we abandon fire suppression on the Angeles National Forest? Is it impossible to fight a fire here? Do they not fight fires in the Inyo National Forest because it is too steep there?

The area that they say was too steep to penetrate is in the Arroyo Seco drainage, just below the point of origin and where the fire crossed the Angeles Crest Highway. This area is no steeper than other areas that were protected in subsequent days and weeks. Mount Wilson ridge is some of the steepest terrain in the whole range, yet there were firefighters from other forests and other agencies crawling all over the mountain top, while the fire was burning below them and lighting backfires of their own. Bulldozers AND hand crews cut fire breaks along ridgelines above Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia... all as steep as, and some steeper than, the "impossible" ridges they mentioned.

So the steep excuse just doesn't wash.

The Cover Up

The review has several photos of fire in steep terrain with scary captions...

"Terrain below the Angeles Crest Highway is extremely rugged and steep."

"Active fire below the Angeles Crest Highway coupled with the topography make accessibility by ground crews impossible."

"Angeles National Forest has long history of firefighter fatalities, especially those that occurred when fire came from below the firefighters."

"Firefighters attempting to access points below the Highway would be in an upslope position with respect to fire below them—safety zones and escape routes could not be established."

"Fire above and below Angeles Crest Highway on August 27 after spot fire occurred."

These photos are designed to make you think that nothing could have been done. In fact, that's what the review tells us. The review states: "As the photographs indicate, topographical conditions in this area are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to traverse without a high degree of exposure to hazard. In addition to the hazards of rolling rocks and unstable footing, firefighters attempting to access points below the Highway would be in an upslope position with respect to fire below them and in brush conditions with extremely limited or no visibility. In these conditions, safety zones and escape routes could not be established." But this is a ruse. First of all, wildland firefighters are trained to deal with rolling rocks and unstable footing - THAT'S WHAT THEY DO! Ask any of the men and women on the crews if they are afraid to or incapable of walking a ridgeline, see what they say. Second, most of the photos conveniently leave out out the trails, roads and existing fire breaks around the area where the fire crossed the highway into the Arroyo Seco. I will show and tell you what it really looks like, and supply some historical information that will make you question the characterization of "impossible to access".

This first Google Earth image comes from the review. It shows the fire perimeters in the first three days, the point of origin, and where the fire crossed the highway. One can see the fire roads and CCC Ridge, but it is zoomed out too much to tell the whole truth...

Here is the crucial area as I captured it (click to enlarge)...

You can see Dark Canyon Road that goes right into the Arroyo Seco from the Angeles Crest Highway and passes below the spot where the fire jumped the highway. In all fairness, Dark Canyon Road has not been maintained in a very long time. But that brings at least two questions to mind. 1) Why hasn't the road been maintained? This is not an ecologically sensitive area. 2) Why couldn't crews have hiked down the road bed from the end of CCC Ridge to catch the fire as it came down the "impossible" ridge? Hikers use this route all the time. There are employees currently working on the Angeles that used to drive pickup trucks down Dark Canyon Road so it is not that long abandoned. 3) How about taking a bulldozer down the old road? They cut right through rock and vegetation where there was no prior road, it should have been no problem to run one down Dark Canyon road. It would have a) extended the firebreak on CCC Ridge, b) provided quick access into the Arroyo Seco from the north and c) finally cleared a vital road that had gone neglected. Notice Dark Canyon. This has been recorded as an escape route of the infamous bandit Tiburchio Vasquez, and was utilized by his gang and him on horseback the day he was finally captured. How impossible could Dark Canyon be for well-trained firefighters when a herd of galloping horses managed to negotiate it? Also notice the long, gentle ridge that forms the canyon's north wall - easily hiked.

Now let's look at the area of which the review has images labeled "no access" (click to enlarge)...

The reviewers placed one of those yellow Google Earth push-pins on a ridgeline and labeled it "no access". This very same ridge has a trail along the top that is used by Edison to maintain the high-tension power lines and do fire clearance around the two towers at the end of the ridge. No access? Edison accesses it all the time. And how did the towers get there? It probably would not have been safe to cut a line along the last couple hundred feet where the ridge meets the stream, but they could have gotten most of it. This may not have been necessary or a good use time, considering that the next ridge to the north, CCC Ridge, already has a firebreak on it and there were no structures between, but the point is that they are clearly trying to deceive us. On the other hand, it may have kept the fire out of Dark Canyon. Even before the Station Fire, I knew the last time this area had burned was the Woodwardia Fire in '58 or '59, and that Dark Canyon has a lot of decadent growth that could lead the fire right into Big Tujunga. If I knew that, shouldn't have someone in the Forest Service have known this? Keep in mind that the review repeatedly mentions how dangerous it is for firefighters to have the fire approach them from below. Well, when firefighters were on the highway, the fire was moving downhill away from them. However, it probably doesn't do much good to chase a fire, better to be on the other side of it so that they can have the fire meet with a fuel/fire break, or a backfire. The Forest Service says, and offers visual "proof", that there was no way to get at the downhill side of the fire, but you can see that that is just not true.

Remember that this flank of the fire didn't really get going until it got into the bottom of the Arroyo Seco where it headed up stream to Red Box Saddle and branched off into Bear Canyon, creating two fronts on their way to Mount Wilson. It should have been a priority to stop it before that happened. This is not hindsight on my part, I wrote on the Altadena Blog on day three that this was a possibility. Again, if I knew that... Wind was not a factor and there are no less than three trails from three directions to access the canyon bottom. The fire would have been above the fire fighters, slowly backing down the hill above them while they cut lines. I'm not suggesting without a doubt that the hand crews alone would have stopped the fire here, even though the "CCC Boys" did it in the 1920's Brown Mountain Fire, but another of the Forest Service's ridiculous excuses is that the helicopters would not have been effective without hand crews on the ground, and you can see by the aerial shots that hiking in is no problem. Also, there were several retreat options.

This is a photo of the area just downstream from the above photo (see Twin Canyon for reference - click to enlarge)...

You can see that the access road from JPL ends at the canyon DIRECTLY BELOW the ranger station for which the fire was named. This used to be a stage coach line from Devil's Gate to Oakwilde. Granted, one can't drive all the way now, because of the debris dam, but one can drive to below where the fire crossed the road. Also below is a picnic area and a popular hiking trail. At the bottom of the Brown and Twin Canyons, where the fire crossed the road, there is a broad gravely wash with nothing but a few shrubby willows and a perennial stream. There are lightweight gas-powered water pumps available that could have been used to supply hoses brought in on "Tahoe packs" (click inset). This illustrates just how close the Station Fire was to the ranger station when it started, and just how much infrastructure there is in the area where the fire crossed into the Arroyo Seco; infrastructure that they know about and are hiding in the review.

Here's another that shows the proximity of Brown Mountain Fire Road to the area where the fire crossed the road and got into the Arroyo Seco and tributaries (click to enlarge)...

Note the trail down and the gentle ridge where a bulldozer and hand crews could have cut a fire break all the way into the canyon. There is a safety zone in the gravely wash and a helipad above for rescue or supply purposes. It seems safe to say the if it is called a fire road, it's intention was to be used to fight fires.

I could go on, but I hope you have gotten the point that this fire could have been fought with hand crews and helicopters on the second day. So even if we were to buy the assertion that the helicopters would not have done any good without crews on the ground, we see that it was possible to get crews below the fire to cut lines. But, of course, we know that the helicopter comment is absurd. The benefit of water-dropping helicopters is that they can douse fires where crews cannot hike and, in fact, we watched them do so on the third day, when the fire had gotten into more remote areas and when the smoke was much thicker than on day two.

This review was a smokescreen (pun intended) and only attempted to answer one question - what happened on the second day? - and attempted to dismiss the internal memo ordering a refusal of cooperation with other agencies. Still on my mind are...
  • When the fire was still very small, on the first day, and had not made a run for the Arroyo Seco or Mt. Lukens, why were helicopters not ordered immediately? They were already in the air for the Morris Fire across town.
  • Why doesn't Forest Service allow helicopters to fly at night? LA County is happy to do it, and I personally witnessed them put out a small fire with a helicopter at Midnight.
  • Why was there no defense of Big Tujunga? This canyon is a broad, gravely flood plain and there were no winds. Lines should have been cut and back fires should have been lit to protect structures, yet by most accounts there was absolutely no action taken.
  • Why were firefighters ordered to abandon Chilao, even though they insisted to supervisors that they could defend it? This decision cost CalTrans a large maintenance facility with employee housing.
  • Who ordered Mount Wilson back fires by helicopter pellet drop? The Station Fire had no intention of burning up the steep back side of the ridge and if the Angeles had any experienced personnel left, they would have known this. The fires that smoldered in inaccessible areas for weeks around the observatory were caused by incendiary devices.
  • Who ordered firefighters not to defend Big Santa Anita Canyon if the fire had entered it? This FACT was recently reaffirmed by ANF Engine 17.
  • Why was the containment kept at 98% for so long? Was it because the emergency closure order expired at 100%? Did this give Jody enough time to come up with her current closure order that again cites safety as the reason and is very loosely based on any actual authority she may have?
  • Why does the Angeles National Forest have such a hard time retaining firefighters? Why do all of the ANF employees hate Supervisor Noiron?

Fireside Chats

Even the Obama® brand presidency did more to stop wildfire than did Jody Noiron...

The Greatest Good - Complete Documentary

This is the centennial documentary on the US Forest Service in its entirety. A couple hours long in 14 segments. It is artfully narrated by Charles Osgood of CBS, who took over for Charles Kuralt. The first video is the trailer - you can advance the videos forward and back by clicking the arrows at left & right.

This production clears up the differences between conservation and preservation, and between the Forest Service and the Park Service respectively. It demonstrates the democratic ideal of the Forest Service, which is why I hold the concept of the National Forest in such high regard, and why I am so frustrated with the current corruption and mismanagement.

The videos are of acceptable quality in full screen mode (that's the button second from the right)...

Direct link to playlist: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=74602DEBB45B13A2

Geology Of The San Gabriel Mountains

In 2007, Adams' Pack Station hosted a Geology Walk conducted by Dave Douglass, Dean of Sciences at Pasadena City College. He spoke in plain English for us newbies and it was very interesting. I put a microphone on him and this was the result...

Smokey The Bear Song

Eddy Arnold sings "Smokey the Bear" for an old public service announcement. This is very quaint, but it is the kind of thing that caused an all out war against forest fires. Much has been learned since about the role of fire in forest ecology, but the attitude persists.

It took me a helluva long time to figure out how to get this from DVD to YouTube, so I hope you all appreciate it...

You Can't Do That On Television!

I am really nervous about posting this. I decided five days ago that I had to tell what I heard, but I have cogitated about how to say it since. It will probably cause grief for at least two honest, hard-working and well-intentioned forest lovers. No matter how I dance around the details, the pieces are easily put together from previous posts. I am not going to delete those otherwise innocent posts, and, besides, Forest Service personnel have already read them.

Forest Service management would tell you that they do not read this blog, but I know that they do. In fact, they have made some sarcastic remarks about it. One of them I found quite funny - it was something to the effect of "If a blog falls in the woods, and no one is there to read it..." - I don't remember the end, but I had to laugh. I have no misconceptions about this blog, but those that need to be aware of it are aware of it.

So, I've decided to tell exactly what happened, and if there are any negative consequences for innocent people, it will only demonstrate the toxicity of Jody's venom; and prove me right in wanting to remove her.

One month ago the Pasadena Weekly published an article entitled 'Smoldering Blame' in which was described the lack of controlled burns on The Angeles as a method to prevent larger fires. Jody used to excuse this by saying that they would have to first get permission from the AQMD, as if to say that it was automatically out of the question. But that is not the case. The AQMD just wants input into when the burns will take place, and they want to be able to warn citizens of possible smoke. In fact, according to the article by Jake Armstrong, the AQMD approved six permits to burn a total of 1,700 acres. Of that the Forest Service only burned 13 acres. THIRTEEN ACRES! Out of 1,700 possible!

Well, they are always full of excuses. They say that the weather was inappropriate at the scheduled times for the burns. I used to think that this was a case of dragging their feet and that it was always too hot by the time they got around to it. But this is calculated procrastination.

The LA Times published an article exposing a memo from the Regional Forester to Forest Supervisors (which includes Jody Noiron) requesting a frugality in the fire suppression arena. This seems to let Jody off the hook - she can't just go starting fires when she is told she can't afford to put them out, right? However, Jody has been notoriously cheap for ten years now, since long before Regional Forester Randy Moore was in office. Anyway, this is not the cause of my angst in writing this...

On Saturday, October 4th, one week ago, I went on a field trip with my Natural History class at Citrus College. I mentioned it in this blog. One of our stops was Rincon Station in the West Fork, specifically Engine 22. We received a demonstration of firefighting equipment by a graduate of the same Citrus forestry program. It was innocently educational, and so far the class and instructor have no idea what I am up to on this blog. I kept my mouth shut the whole time I was there.

Now, this person conducted a very comprehensive discussion of fire, fire suppression, and fire prevention, and it was wholly appropriate for the occasion. One of the students brought up the subject of controlled burns. We were correctly told that the Forest Service has learned a lot about the positive role that fire has on forest ecology. At first we got the canned excuse that blames the AQMD for not conducting necessary burns. But then the truth came out... "We can't do it for publicity reasons."

There you have it. Again, it doesn't look good on TV. Some of you may be thinking that the general public is not as naive as they used to be, and most understand that a certain amount of fire is necessary for many reasons. Others are willing to trust the Forest Service to do what is best. So, what's with the negative publicity angle?

As you are learning here, you cannot trust the Forest Service, not the staff of The Angeles, but most people don't know that. However, The Angeles knows that it can't trust itself. They don't have qualified fire management, thanks to Jody, and they don't have enough firefighters to control the burns. So what they are really afraid of is that a controlled burn will get away from them, starting a much bigger fire, and that they will be blamed for it. Instead they let the growth get thicker and thicker until an arsonist comes along, and hopefully he will get all the blame for a big fire. In the process, the heavy fuel loads are removed, and Jody will be retired by the time the forest needs to burn again.

There Was A Vibration!

Soon, you will know...

Mt. Wilson Backfires Failed

One of the factors in how Jody Noiron and others decide how to approach a fire in The Angeles is how the efforts will look on TV. When the Station Fire got into the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, the canyon behind Mt Wilson, there was, naturally, great media pressure to protect the summit.

But one of the few places on the forest that received fire clearance in recent years was Mt Wilson. And they kept telling us that this was a terrain-driven fire, not a wind-driven fire. Keep in mind that both sides of Wilson Ridge are extremely steep, and that terrain (i.e. steep slopes) can also act as a natural barrier to fire.

The fire never got onto the front (south) face of the ridge that is covered in Chaparral. The north side is a very different community, with Big-Cone Douglas Fir, Pines, Incense Cedar and Oaks, which burn differently and much more slowly without wind. In fact, the fire didn't attempt to burn there on its own.

However, it makes television reporters nervous - especially when they have a personal interest in the matter - to watch firefighters let a fire take its natural course in open space. Now, because the slope was too steep to cut a fire break, somebody decided to drop incendiary potassium permanganate pellets from aircraft to start backfires that would burn away from Mt Wilson.

Well, because the area didn't want to burn in the first place, all they succeeded in doing was to start hundreds of little spot fires that smoldered for weeks, and are still contributing to Jody's excuse to keep the forest closed. Eventually all the imported hot shot crews that were monitoring the situation went home because it was clear that the slopes behind Mt Wilson were just not going to burn.


Listen to local bear warning on this mp3... *Click Here*

Another Tantrum

Jody Noiron has issued a gag order for employees of the Angeles National Forest. They are not to cooperate with the press, and they are definitely not supposed to talk to any public or friends.

What she doesn't seem to understand is that she has done nothing to foster any loyalty to herself. Most of her current and past employees do not like her, and if they can say something anonymously, something that might help have her removed from office, they will probably speak in spite of her "order"; in fact, they may speak just to spite her order. The threats of being fired are really getting old, and she is only making the work environment more hostile than it already is.

There is probably someone in charge of answering any and all questions by the press, but you can't believe anything that person will say.

How to Become a Wildland Firefighter

So you have a summer to kill, a hankering for adventure, and wouldn’t mind saving some pristine forest or maybe a family’s home from an inferno? Follow this link:

Out Of The Frying Pan & Into The Fire

Chris Kasten, Manager of Sturtevant's Camp, almost lost his beloved historical site in the Station Fire. Thanks to firefighters, its proximity to Mount Wilson, and a lot of publicity, the camp was saved. Just when he thought he was out of the woods, or back into them, the Sheep Fire erupted and is steadily marching up the Swarthout Valley.
Chris commutes to work in Big Santa Anita Canyon. He and his wife, Joan, actually live in Wrightwood, parts of which are now under voluntary evacuation from said fire that started in the Cajon area. What next?!!

Dear Mr. Pringle,

This is the letter I just sent in response to the [good] LA Times article by Paul Pringle...

Thank you for exposing the internal memo about cutting fire suppression costs on Region 5 of the National Forest system. This sheds more light on what we have already known - that there is a lack of suppression spending on the Angeles National Forest. Attached is a letter to Jody Noiron[here], Forest Supervisor, signed by six local members of Congress requesting answers to why the retention rate for fire fighters is so low on the Angeles; the date is July, 3 2007. The letter cites the cost of living being so much higher in Southern California than in most of The Country, and the relatively low pay. It does not show an awareness of the concerted effort to eliminate affordable housing owned by the Forest Service.

But the true ignorance of the letter is in what is scaring away the firefighters: Jody herself. She is, by all accounts, the nastiest person one would ever want to work for. She is responsible for most of the experienced and knowledgeable firefighters leaving The Angeles, and this is the crux of the problem. Until a few years ago it may have been sufficient to use only Forest Service resources in the first two days of the Station Fire, as directed by the memo, but with so many old-timers having left for consulting opportunities, and refusing to collaborate with Jody Noiron, The Angeles is left with crews and commanders that are completely unfamiliar with the San Gabriel Mountains and how they burn. The "mistakes" on the Station Fire would not have been made by seasoned San Gabriel Mountain firefighters.

There is much more to this story, and the story of The Angeles on the whole, and they warrant investigation. The letter you published merely deflects blame from Jody Noiron, and I expect to see some "removals" by her in the attempt to do the same.

Also attached is the letter to former fire chief Don Feser [here], which exemplifies Jody's attitude, and which led to Don's resignation

Feel free to email me for further investigation at gregsweet4@yahoo.com

Seriously & Hopefully,
Greg Sweet
San Gabriel Mountain Blog

Sheep Fire From Baldy Notch

I was on a field trip today with my Natural History class at Citrus College. We rode the ski lift to Baldy Notch. After lunch at the restaurant, we took a very short walk to where one can see the 'Cajon Amphitheater' and the Mojave Desert. Just after the desert came into view, so did a plume of smoke.

These were taken in the ten minutes that we talked about Pine trees. Notice how fast it grew...


These were taken within just a few minutes from returning to the restaurant/ski area. At first there was no smoke visible, but it quickly appeared over the ridge. The folks that work there had just been notified of the fire, and that it was down in Lytle Creek, which put it a good distance from us, but we decided to cut the visit a little short anyway...


Natural History Class - 3-Day Field Trip

Day Three was postponed for a week. We planned to go to Santa Rosa Island from Ventura, but they were predicting gale-force winds. Next Sunday Santa Cruz Island is available, but if weather does not permit the trip, we will have a plan B.

Day One: The San Andreas Fault Zone... Lytle Creek, Cajon Wash, Mormon Rocks, Wrightwood and Devil's Punchbowl.

Mormon Rocks

Devil's Punchbowl

Day Two: San Gabriel Canyon & Baldy... Morris Dam,  OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Area, Rincon Station & Engine 22, East Fork, Glendora Mountain Highway, Baldy Village, Baldy Notch and San Antonio Falls.

Morris Dam

Morris Fire

ANF Engine 22

Mt San Antonio (Mt Baldy)

Baldy Ski Lift Looking Up

Baldy Ski Lift Looking Down

Devil's Backbone

Head of San Antonio Canyon

Head of Lytle Canyon

San Antonio Falls


Photo from Richard Nyerges of the Bear Canyon Trail Crew. This shot is from near Inspiration Point, across Eaton Canyon to the Wilson/Harvard complex. It shows how close the Station Fire got to the front side. Though the fire came much closer on the north side of the ridge, that environment is generally cooler and slower burning. Had the fire gotten onto the front side (south-facing slope) which is Chaparral, the result could have different.

Click to enlarge...

Station Fire Commander

Yesterday I posted the link to an article announcing the semi-retirement of Mike Dietrich, the Incident Commander on the Station Fire. I didn't write anything because I was in a hurry, and because I don't know anything about this man.

However, I do know that experienced firefighters drop like flies around Jody Noiron, which could be the reason a fire on The Angeles needed to borrow a commander from the San Bernardino National Forest. And I can't help but wonder if this most recent encounter with Jody had an affect on his desire for a break from it all.

Mike Dietrich is the one that announced at the beginning of the fire that they were going to fight it "in a frugal manner" and then quickly backpedaled. This doesn't sound like the words of an experienced firefighter (resume here »), but Jody Noiron has a track record of not spending enough money on fire suppression. I imagine that Mike was just doing as he was told. Did you notice how defensive he got when the press asked "Whaddya mean, frugal"? It sounded like he didn't know what to say - probably because it didn't make sense to him either. And Jody never once came to his defense. She threw him under the bus.

Update: Be sure to read the comments...

Station Fire - 2nd Day Video

Video sent to me by Matt, shot from Mt. Lukens Road. This is the second day of the Station Fire. You hear him mention Dark Canyon. The fire is moving eastward into the Arroyo Seco and Bear Canyon. This is just below the point of origin and the station for which the fire was named. I know, and have long known, that the last time a fire went through there was the 1954 Woodwardia Fire, which moved in the same direction - down into The Arroyo and on to Bear Canyon, burning the cabin of Will Thrall's San Antonio Hiking Club. If a Joe like me knows that the growth into which the fire was burning was 55 years old, and that it was on a path similar to the previous fire, shouldn't there have been someone working on the Angeles that had the same information? Oh yeah! That's right! Jody repelled them all with her obnoxious ways, and the few remaining are new to the forest, replacing those that have quit!

Hey Gigi, you know fire, you know Dark Canyon... gregsweet4@yahoo.com

Gimme A Break!

This is the craziest thing I have heard about the Station Fire or the mountains in general...

A friend of a friend in Sierra Madre said that "crews" were in the mountains today above said village. The Station Fire did not pass through there, but 'dozer lines were cut in defense of the neighborhoods. Now that the fire danger has passed, somebody has decided that they should take the brush that was cut for the firebreak and toss it back onto the area from where it was cut.

It was suggested by a friend of mine that fire crews had gotten themselves into trouble with environmental groups, but I know better. First of all, the exigent circumstances of fire supersede other concerns, and that cut brush isn't going to root and grow again. This sounds more like the hysteria of the Sierra Madre FireSafe Council and their secondary obsession of mud. They were up there trying to use the branches as water dams. None of the firebreaks above other communities had crews "replacing" the brush cut for firebreaks.

You yentas over at Mary's Market ought to get out more often.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fondue

The reason I took time off from this blog, after getting such a running start, was that some friends of mine, and some that probably aren't, were angry with me upsetting the apple cart. I am not talking about any employee of the Angeles National Forest, because they would all like to see Jody Noiron disappear.  Of course, I am speaking of folks in Big Santa Anita Canyon - they are the ones that I have known for six years.

Jody, as usual, she has gotten a bee in her bonnet, or a burr under her saddle, if the former sounded sexist, about cabin owners entering the forest when it is supposed to be closed. This is old news. She has been trying to lock out permitees since she arrived on this forest, and this latest excuse to close the forest is just another of many. It had nothing to do with me trying to get her ousted. And I am tired of getting the blame for things I have not done, and for not getting credit for things that I have done. Besides, the permitees want to see her go too.

That's all personal stuff, and I wanted to see if I would cool down and change my mind. Well, I have cooled down, but I have not changed my mind. Jody Noiron has got to leave the Forest Service, the whole Service, and everyone knows it. The thing is that I am now one of the few that knows the dirt, but doesn't have a permit or a job depending on her good favor; and apparently the only one with the fortitude to stand up to her. I will admit that it is easy for me to say now that I am Joe Citizen, but no revolutions were won by looking the other way.

So for my 'friends' in Big Santa Anita Canyon, I refer you to the article I wrote about Big T & Bouquet (http://sgmountains.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-about-cabins-that-burned.html), and remember how you are different. You know the difference - you talk about it at every cabin-owners' association meeting and you bring it up whenever you have a sit-down with Angeles management.

I'm a bigger Libertarian than all o' y'all put t'gether, and you know the story of my efforts to keep the pack station alive, so I appreciate the sentiment behind your rebellion. But now is the time to stand up and make your opinions be known, or forever hold your panties in a bunch.

LA Times: Station Fire's Strength Was Miscalculated

I my article two weeks ago entitled 'Pride Comes Before A Fall' I told you how the Forest Service let the Station Fire get away from themselves on the first day. I sent that article to the news desk of, among others, the Los Angeles Times. Here is a Times article yesterday that asks for answers about that first day...


I think the headline is too kind and the County is being apologetic for the Forest Service. Not to blame the county, it is simply professional courtesy, I suppose, or just trying to stay out of the controversy. In fact, I heard that the new Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell ( that's the guy from D.C.), has been in town looking into the matter for himself.

The article cites a "miscalculation" on the part of the Forest Service. A major miscalculation, I might add, and the incompetence alone should be enough to investigate the handling of this fire. But I am telling you now, possibly first, this is about politics and corruption, but mostly about corruption. And anyone that wondered if I am some kind of crack-pot, you can see that what I have said is being reinforced.

I told you that the refusal of help was a cover-up of sorts. A preemptive strike against any further allegations of incompetence on the part of Angeles management, and the lack of fire suppression spending. Spending is the operative word here, not allocation. We will get into detailed questions about what is happening to all the money that was supposed to be spent on suppression and, more importantly, in my opinion, on prevention; and who is scaring away all the firefighters. If only we'd been liberal with the water buckets ten years ago...

OH! What a world, what a world!

Lil' Sister Jenny & Me On Echo Mountain

You can guess by my hair, lapels and pant legs what era this was, and Dad musta spent some bucks on those boots! (click to enlarge)...

I remember this trip well. We went with my father, Walt, and his brother, John. Uncle John had the bright idea not to use the Sam Merrill Trail and go up the old Incline Railway bed instead. This was a rough climb, but even in the 70's you could still find old bottles and spoons and other litter from the White City to make it fun. We don't look any worse for the wear.

Today is Jenny's birthday. Nowadays she calls herself  'River'.

Still Here

I haven't forgotten my blog, just catching up on school studies, and reloading the ammunition. I will talk a little about the impending closure of The Angeles. That is, the one after this current closure order ends at full containment of the Station Fire. Here is a clue as to my opinion, a George Carlin routine that Petrea over at Pasadena Daily Photo reminded me of...

Why Not An Ivory Tower?

Forest Service employees and their families are still living in motels or bunking on couches while Queen Nero builds herself a new castle.
Read here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles/projects/docs/Arcadia-SO-Replacement-EA-Aug09.pdf

You Didn't Challenge The Legality Of Adventure Passes, Now Bend Over!

May I remind you people that you ARE the government? And that the Angeles National Forest is YOUR land? For over a decade now, you have been quietly paying your five or thirty dollars to park alongside a road or in a parking lot that you built with your own tax dollars without ever asking whether it is legal, or why the other 151 National Forests in The Country, besides the four in Southern California, don't require an Adventure Pass. And what did all that money get you? The biggest F-ing fire in 111 years!

Now they want to take the money and run. They want to take one of the last strongholds of democracy and turn it into a money making opportunity; a revenue office with the acreage of Rhode Island. They want to turn the San Gabriels over to the National Parks system. This would effectively take away many of your rights while turning our mountains into another Disneyland. Look at Yosemite National Park. Do you think it jives with John Muir's vision? It is now just another tacky California tourist trap.

Why do they think they can get away with this? Because you have proven to them that you will happily pay what ever they ask to access your land. Don't let it happen again. It is currently your right to freely access the Angeles National Forest, but it would be your privilege to pay to access the Angeles National Park.


Pride Comes Before A Fall

I have a rumor to report, but this type of rumor is usually true. But first a fact. Many employees of the Angeles National Forest are very upset by the handling of the Station Fire, especially in the beginning. It could easily have been stopped before it moved into the decadent growth.

Now for the rumor. It has been said that when the fire was first reported, Los Angeles County Fire Department offered help, but Jody Noiron refused.

Here are some things to keep in mind. The Morris Fire in San Gabriel Canyon was active at the time and air operations were already in effect. It would have been no problem for one of the Sky Cranes to come make a couple of drops to put the thing out. Now, the Angeles Forest only has one helicopter, and it is mostly used for helitack purposes (delivering personnel, tools & supplies). It can be outfitted with a small water bucket, but... a) why use a little bucket when the Sky Cranes were offered and already in the neighborhood? and b) since the dedicated water droppers were already on scene at the Morris Fire, the Angeles helicopter was being used by helitack crews, and not immediately ready to drop water.

So why would Jody refuse help? It could be because she has received tremendous criticism for not spending enough on fire suppression, and she has been blamed for a dwindling fire crew. Here is a letter (pdf) sent to Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron in December 2007, signed by six local members of Congress, requesting answers on the retention of firefighters within The Angeles...

I would be willing to bet that with so much assistance already in play at the Morris Fire, she wanted to prove that she could handle a fire on her own, that they were not really under-staffed. After all this was a little fire, right? It started close to Angeles Crest Station, probably right near the highway, and was just down the road from Mill Creek Station. It should be easy to put out, right? She could take a stand and do it safely, couldn't she?

The rest is history.

Something's Bugging Me

I really want to go hiking, but the forest is closed. So, if figure if I go in a Bark Beetle costume I will go unnoticed.

Let Them Eat Cake!

CalTrans lost some of their employee housing in the Angeles National Forest. They have been put up in houses supplied by CalTrans (they own a lot of property along the proposed 710 Fwy corridor). Plans are already in the works to rebuild these houses and get the families back in as soon as possible.

Jody Noiron, on the other hand, has lost twelve employee residences plus the barracks at Mill Creek. She has made no effort to help the employees that were living in them. No cash assistance, no requests for FEMA trailers, nothing. And like CalTrans, the Forest Service does own vacant houses, as well as barracks. The displaced families have not been offered the use these properties. What's more, she has banned ALL employees from returning home. The forest is closed to them too, and if they attempt to return home, they will be fired!

Do You Love Your Firefighters?

All around town there are banners hung that thank the firefighters for their efforts. Firefighters are getting standing ovations in restaurants, and the memorial for two men that died in the fire required Dodger Stadium to accommodate the number of mourners.

Here is a memo (pdf) that exemplifies Jody Noiron's attitude toward her firefighters...

"ANF Fire Patch/Coin & Back of the ANF Coin: In early April 2007, these patches --that were handed out by the ANF Chief Don Feser as a fire morale builder-- became a bone of contention. The ANF Forest Supervisor demanded they be collected and returned to her. In part this led to the early retirement of the Chief, leaving the Forest with no leadership and little experienced fire staff and also causing a hole in the Incident Management organization in R5 and the nation. Photos compliments of an unnamed source..."

And this is the general sentiment around the Angeles National Forest, taken from a firefighters' website discussion forum...

To Eastern FF:

If its true Jody is going to R9, may I be the first to open the door to let her out
of R5 with a hearty "See ya, don't let the door hit ya on the way out..."? Gosh,
hope she takes her "award" with her.

Heck if she does go, the morale of the firefighters on the ANF will rise just as
fast as suppression spending...

Fedwatcher II