Red Tape Grounded Copters in California Fires

Residents pick up the pieces after blaze
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2007 1:26 PM CDT
Dan Keane looks at his neighbors destroyed house as a melted toy fire truck sits in the front yard in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007. The Santa Ana winds that helped fires...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Firefighting helicopters sat idle as wildfires broke out across California, an AP investigation concludes, thanks to a web of bureaucracy. By the time Navy, Marine, and National Guard aircraft got clearance, up to a day after blazes started, it was already too dangerous to fly. Others were missing crucial equipment that had been promised for 4 years.

“When you look at what's happened, it's disgusting, inexcusable foot-dragging that's put tens of thousands of people in danger,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican. Helicopters were flying today, helping contain the remaining blazes, which still endanger 16,000 homes. Thousands of evacuees were allowed to return home and survey the damage. Qualcomm Stadium closed as a shelter, symbolically ending the crisis.