Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there. Months before the blaze erupted, the US Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 had been cleared by the time the fire broke out.
The agency defended its efforts, saying weather, wind and environmental rules tightly limit how often these "prescribed burns" can be conducted. The blaze has destroyed more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands to flee. Firefighters reported modest progress today as investigators said the blaze was human-caused, though it was not clear exactly how the fire started or whether it was accidental or arson.