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Toy drone disrupts aircraft fighting California wildfire

(Reuters) - A private drone trying to film a wildfire that has charred nearly six square miles in Northern California briefly disrupted firefighting efforts, although workers had gained the upper hand against the blaze, officials said on Monday.

Fire officials spotted the drone over the so-called Sand Fire on Sunday and immediately called police to find the drone's owner and have the toy grounded to avoid a possible mid-air collision, a California fire official said.

"That drone was flying within our air space and was a hazard for our aircraft," said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Kevin Lucero. "It essentially inhibited some of our operations going on."

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that it was investigating the incident. It said the drone's owner was a hobbyist trying to film the blaze.

Civilian Drone Prompts 'No-Fly Zone' Over Wildfire

Despite the disturbance, crews had built containment lines around three quarters of the fire by Monday night, up from only 35 percent on Sunday evening, CalFire said. Some residents who were forced to flee their homes ahead of the flames were allowed to return on Monday.

But CalFire cautioned that the blaze was still burning in steep, dry terrain that made fighting it more difficult and that they did not expect full containment until Friday.

The Sand Fire, which erupted in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento on Friday, has scorched more than 3,800 acres. One firefighter has been injured.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters backed by air tankers have been deployed against the blaze, working in nearly triple-digit temperatures, high winds and extremely low humidity.

California is facing one of its most severe droughts on record, with wide swaths of the nation's most populous state under "exceptional drought," or the most severe rating issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

About 180 miles to the southeast, a 2,600-acre wildfire on the western edge of Yosemite National Park was about 5 percent contained on Monday and one structure had been destroyed, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The blaze was burning close to where the 2013 Rim fire seared some 250,000 acres in the central Sierra Nevada region.

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Chris July 29 2014 at 10:10 AM

This is just the beginning of a very bad situation with drones. Its not about the good that drones can do, although that's argueable. Its the potential for some nutjob to fly a drone with an explosive charge into a jet at takeoff or landing or to fly one into a building or power plant, substation or bulk fuel storage facility.

You don't need to worry about the guy who owns the drone who just wants to take dramatic pictures of the firefighters, you need to worry about the twisted freak who owns the drone and wants to set fires with it from the safety of his garage..

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3 replies
alans022 July 29 2014 at 9:14 AM

Find the drone owner and give him two choices. Jail or help fight the fires.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
6 replies
erink91321 July 29 2014 at 10:14 AM

Just shoot the Damn thing down

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1 reply
Viper1ex19 erink91321 July 29 2014 at 8:30 PM

That's exactly what would happen if I see one over my property,

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MADC Information July 29 2014 at 9:16 AM

These Drones shouldn't be allowed - they need to find the idiot owner of the drone and put him in jail. The firemen should have turned those hoses on it for a few seconds to short circuit it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
ngcolby July 29 2014 at 9:55 AM

private drone owners should be fined a heft amount if flown in certain incidences and areas. Obnoxious people should pay.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
alfredschrader July 29 2014 at 9:47 AM

They could use drones to put out the blaze.
Some fellow just invented a device that fills hundreds of water balloons at once - perfect for dropping on this.

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4 replies
coopdabomb July 29 2014 at 10:57 AM

Thanks to osama obama and this piss poor administration. These were toys for kids before he started with them. The sad part is this is just starting

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3 replies
Joebudgie July 29 2014 at 10:48 AM

Such stupid "hobbyists" should be tracked down and prosecuted severely and publically. Occupants of fire fighting airplanes and helicopters carrying water and chemicals to dump on forest fires are at risk to such dumb hobbyists. The fire fighting pilot is concentrating on flying low enough for his load to be effective and trying to line up with the last water dump. Having one of these "models" hit the windshield like an insect on a cars windshield driving the turnpike could spell instant disaster for the pilot and crew. Even if it doesn't break the glass the sudden and unexpected impact could cause an involuntary flinch crashing the plane.

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alspoolhall July 29 2014 at 10:45 AM

So who is the idiot who actually flew a drone into this serious fire-fighting situation? A kid or an adult, who should have known better?

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rgburrill July 29 2014 at 9:47 AM

I hope the young man is happy that he nearly caused the destruction of several half-million dollar homes.

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1 reply
thedanemom rgburrill July 29 2014 at 2:38 PM

The drone owner didn't set the fire, so what destruction did they "nearly " cause ? they wanted to film the fire, and they probably didn't even think that they would be impacting air space. Also where did you read that the owner was a he or a young man ? It didn't say that in the article.

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