A giant wildfire currently spreading through Southern California’s Cajon Pass is burning cars on the freeway in what the San Bernardino County Fire Department is calling a “multi-casualty incident.” But the firefighters also issued a report that due to a drone seen flying in the area, they couldn’t get their helicopters to the scene right away.
Update: Officials told NBC LA that five drones were in the air and “definitely” delayed the firefighters’ response:
Two drones actually gave chase to air units, and the incident delayed response by about 15 to 20 minutes, according to Battalion Chief Marc Peebles of San Bernardino County Fire Department.
When asked if the delay contributed to the fire jumping the 15 Freeway, Peebles said “It definitely contributed to it.”
What’s been named the North Fire has burned about 500 acres near the 15 freeway, which heads northeast to Vegas. Firefighters had closed traffic in both directions when suddenly the grass fire jumped into the freeway and set several cars aflame. Firefighters began mobilizing their aircraft, but due to a drone seen in the air, they were forced to ground their helicopters which were starting to drop water on the burning cars.
It isn’t the first time that drones have prevented firefighters from flying their aircraft—it seems to be a frighteningly regular thing. This is the third time in a month that this has happened just in this county. During the nearby Lake Fire in June, a DC-10 carrying flame-retardant was grounded after a drone was spotted in the air.
San Bernardino’s fire department reported that drones were hindering efforts and tweeted out a poster from the US Forest Service reminding drone operators not to fly near firefighting operations.
If you have drone—and I think I can stay this with some certainty—stay the fuck away from wildfires.
Update: Although firefighters did describe the fire as a “multi-casualty event” to KTLA, no deaths have been reported yet. Headline has been updated.
Top image from KTLA’s live feed of the fire