The night before the Canyon Fire 2 blaze erupted in the Anaheim Hills, ultimately charring 9,200 acres and destroying 25 structures, Orange County Fire Authority officials were alerted to flames in the area but the agency never responded, a retired sheriff’s deputy said Wednesday.
Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson has summoned OCFA leaders to appear at the board’s next meeting to discuss the allegation by Jim Slikker, who now serves as a volunteer medic for the sheriff’s department.
OCFA Capt. Larry Kurtz told City News Service the agency is aware of Slikker’s allegation, and the Anaheim police and fire departments are handling the investigation.
Slikker told CNS he was on duty as a medic around 5 p.m. Oct. 8, and he heard a conversation over a police scanner between an Anaheim police officer in a helicopter and an OCFA dispatcher.
“An Anaheim police helicopter called … and told them there was a fire that was outside the burn area of” the original Canyon Fire, which burned in the same general area in late September, Slikker told CNS. The police officer said there were no firefighters in the area and there was “quite a bit of flame and a lot of smoke,” he said.
“But they said we’re not going to be sending any units,” Slikker said. “So the Anaheim police helicopter pilot said OK, but you could tell by the sound of his voice it was pretty serious.”
The Anaheim officer gave the OCFA dispatcher the longitude and latitude of the flames, Slikker said, noting that the blaze was in the fire authority’s jurisdiction.
“I was disturbed by it because we all knew … they were predicting Santa Ana winds the next day,” Slikker said.
The Canyon Fire 2 was officially reported the morning of Oct. 9. Authorities said the blaze eventually damaged 55 structures in addition to the 25 destroyed and prompted the full closure of the 241 toll road in both directions between the Riverside (91) Freeway and Santiago Canyon Road.
The blaze erupted near the 91 Freeway east of Gypsum Canyon Road, near the Coal Canyon flashpoint of the first Canyon Fire, which broke out Sept. 25 and blackened more than 2,600 acres and took more than a week to contain.
“You would have thought that with flames and knowing Santa Ana winds were predicted the next day that they would have at least put some water on it,” Slikker said. “And the next day it was, oh my gosh, this is horrible. People were losing their homes.
“This is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”
Slikker also alleged that a sheriff’s helicopter pilot spotted flames in the area the morning of Oct. 9 before the fire was officially reported and offered to use its “bucket” to drop some water on the flames, but fire officials declined the offer. Slikker said he did not specifically hear that alleged exchange.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the OCFA have been locked in a continuing dispute over protocol for helicopter crews responding to fires and other emergencies.
–City News Service
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