Fingerpointing Starts Over Firefighting Helicopter Delays
San Diego politicians say foot-dragging by state officials kept 24 firefighting helicopters on the ground for a full day last week, critically hampering firefighting efforts in the early stages as the blazes gathered strength. The helicopters, operated by the military, were grounded because a state regulation requires that all firefighting choppers have a "fire spotter" on board and there weren't enough available. By the time the helicopters were allowed to take off it was too windy for them to fly. On Wednesday the state waived the regulation but now the heat is on state officials to explain the delay in doing so.
"When you look at what's happened, it's disgusting, inexcusable foot-dragging that's put tens of thousands of people in danger," Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, told the London Daily Telegraph. Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Saturday the state will review its policies. "There are things that we could improve on and I think this is what we are going to do because a disaster like this, you know, really, in the end is a good vehicle, a motivator for everyone to come together," he told a news conference. Two Air National Guard C-130s also sat idle because they haven't yet been retrofitted with fire-retardant tanks.