Drones Keep Firefighters From Saving Burning Cars in California Wildfire

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A wildfire tore through Southern California’s Cajon Pass yesterday, crossing a freeway and engulfing a number of cars in its path. Now authorities are saying that firefighters could have done more to save cars and homes… were it not for multiple drones getting in the way of firefighting operations.

NBC Southern California is reporting that at least five drones — presumably being used to shoot aerial photos and videos — were spotted over the fire, causing all five firefighting air units in the area to jettison their loads and return to their airports.

Two of the drones actually started chasing the air units, says NBC So Cal, and the pilots’ actions ended up delaying rescue response by about 20 minutes. The fire ended up destroying five homes and more than a dozen cars.

“[Drones] can kill our firefighters in the air. They can strike one of these things and one of our aircraft could go down, killing the firefighters in the air,” says John Miller of the US Forest Service. “This is serious to us. It is a serious, not only life threat, not only to our firefighters in the air, but when we look at the vehicles that were overrun by fire, it was definitely a life-safety threat to the motorists.”

The San Bernardino County Fire Department tweeted a poster by the US Forest Service that warns drone pilots to keep their aerial cameras grounded during wildfires:

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This is only the latest incident of drones getting in the way of wildfire battles in Southern California. Authorities already warned drone pilots of the dangers at least two times over the past month.

(via NBC Southern California via Gizmodo)


Image credits: Header illustration based on still frame from live feed by KTLA5

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