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California State Senator Ted Gaines, First District, visited the Lake Almanor Basin Aug. 26; the area was recently declared an economic disaster area.
During his visit, Gaines toured the Incident Command Post (ICP), and joined a 9 a.m. cooperators briefing hosted by Plumas National Forest (PNF) officials and California Interagency Incident Management Team 4.
Also in attendance at the West Lake Almanor ICP briefing were representatives from CalFire, U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Gas & Electric, and local homeowners.
Following the meeting, this reporter had a conversation with Lawrence Crabtree, PNF deputy supervisor and introduced the topic of other fire officials being hesitant to allow press to attend the briefing.
Crabtree said, “I couldn’t understand what the problem was. My thought was why wouldn’t we want the press to attend?”
Steve Davey, chief of staff for Gaines’ office, concurred with Crabtree’s comment and added, “I was informed of the agencies’ hesitancy when I made the arrangements for press to be in attendance. I asked them, ‘What do you have to hide?’”
After fire officials discussed current Chips Fire status, Crabtree assured those in attendance, “From the first report on July 29, we have gone all out on this fire.
“(The) Chips Fire was an early example of what was ahead. Plumas County already had 72 fires this year, so we already knew that we had a dry forest.
“All five incident commanders were told by me, ‘we need this fire to be put out!’ Great effort has been made by all involved to stop the fire and the Forest Service has had no hesitancy to do so.”
Plumas National Forest Supervisor Earl Ford said, “Several days ago myself and others from the Forest Service went into the forest to analyze the effects the Chips Fire had on it.”
“As soon as it is safe to do so, we will hold a public tour of the fire site and discuss what can be done to restore it.”
“Across the nation, we are seeing larger fires, more fires, and tougher fires. That is not going to change,” said Team 4 Incident Manager Rocky Opliger.
At the end of the meeting, Gaines said, “We need to figure out how to manage our forest better. I will continue to express that view to the state Legislature.”
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