Politicians Question National Park Service's Handling of Reading Fire

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Three months after the Reading Fire began burning in Lassen National Park, Congressman Wally Herger and Congressman Tom McClintock gathered a panel of experts at the capital to question the National Park Service's decision to use the fire for a controlled burn instead of fighting immediately.

National Park Services Wildland Fire Branch Chief Bill Kaage said that the fire was environmentally beneficial because fires naturally occur every five to six years to clear out dead trees and brush so new life can grow.

But 23 days before lightning sparked the Reading Fire, CAL FIRE issued a no-burn ban, requiring all fires in California to be put out.

McClintock and Herger questioned Kaage as to how many personnel were fighting the fire to which he replied 60 to 70 personnel.

CAL FIRE and Shasta County Fire representatives also said that if the fire was under their jurisdiction, they would have extinguished it immediately.

One woman who spoke, Rachel Parker, is a business owner who was affected by the fire. Parker owns the Mineral Lodge and Store in Mineral, Calif. Parker said that her business is attached to the tourism industry that Lassen Volcanic National Park attracts and the fire cost her half of her business.

The Reading Fire affected the air quality, cost the state $15 million to put out, devastated local business and burned 28,000 acres of forest land.

Shasta County Supervisor Elect Pam Giacomini said that the damage could have been minimized had there been better communication between state, local and federal government services.

With the election around the corner, both Congressmen Herger and McClintock said there could be major policy changes this year to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

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