Largest Fire In L.A. History Could Have Fizzled Sooner, If Not For Mystery Slacker

More than a year after the Station Fire spread from Angeles National Forest to wipe out 89 homes and take the lives of two firefighters, the U.S. Forest Service still can't point to a culprit for its embarrassingly slow response, which allowed a small blaze to become a monster last August.

Another clogged government operation -- a congressional hearing in Pasadena this morning that investigated the problem -- ended inconclusively, leaving the sloppy emergency effort just as big a mystery as it was at the time of disaster.

Scenario One: The request for a tanker was called in too late by the Forest Service, possibly a push to cut costs.

Scenario Two: The Los Angeles Fire Department put the request on hold, underestimating the fire's potential until it was, again, too late. (Conveniently, phone transcripts for that fateful morning are missing on both ends.)

Another wrench in the story: Owner of the Martin Mars, a 7,000-gallon tanker the Forest Service had deployed just the night before, testifies he was told to get her ready for the following morning -- then told to scratch that.

Either way, sardine-packed residents at the hearing made it clear that they're still just as pissed, and still want justice (read: a target for their flamethrowers). It's no wonder the guilty are in hiding.

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