drone disrupts aircraft fighting California wildfire
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[July 29, 2014]
By Dan Whitcomb
(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.
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
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.
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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
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
The blaze was burning close to where the 2013 Rim fire seared some
250,000 acres in the central Sierra Nevada region.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, additional reporting by
Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Eric Beech, Eric M. Johnson
and Paul Tait)
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