Drone disrupts fight against fire in San Bernardino Mountains, Highway 38 closed

Drone disrupts fight against fire in San Bernardino Mountains, Highway 38 closed

10 July 2015

published by http://bniussr.ning.com

USA — A cloud of smoke from the Mill 2 fire rises from the San Bernardino Mountains on Sunday afternoon.

A drone temporarily halted air tankers that were fighting the Mill 2 fire north of Yucaipa on Sunday, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

The fire’s forward progress has been stopped, Cal Fire officials announced via Twitter about 4:30 p.m. The fire burned an estimated 35-50 acres.

Highway 38 in the San Bernardino Mountains remains closed between Bryant Street and Lake Williams. The CHP said the closure is expected to last until 7:30 or 8:30 p.m.

The Mill 2 fire broke out about 2:30 p.m. in Mill Creek Canyon, above the point where Bryant Street intersects with Highway 38 near the San Bernardino National Forest boundary.

Four homes on the west side of Yucaipa Ridge were evacuated as a precaution.

Seventeen engines, seven hand crews, two bulldozers, five helicopters and three air tankers helped put out the flames.

But the aircraft were hampered by a drone that was being flown in the area of the fire.

It is “critically important that recreational … drone users not operate near wildfires,” the U.S. Forest Service said via Twitter.

Because of the danger posed by an unauthorized aircraft, firefighting craft have to be grounded when a drone is spotted.

That has happened twice in recent weeks in the Inland area. As firefighters were battling the Lake fire last month, the fleet was grounded after a drone passed 500 feet below one firefighting airplane and 500 feet above another.

The next day, planes fighting a smaller fire on the outskirts of San Bernardino were grounded because of a drone.

In response, a bill has been proposed that would make it a crime to fly unmanned aurcraft over a wildfire.

The Mill 2 fire is one of two that broke out around the same time in the mountains. Several miles up, about 2 miles south of Angelus Oaks, a vegetation fire started when a motorcycle crashed about 2:30 p.m.

According to a CHP incident log, the rider ended up 150-200 feet over the side and suffered minor injuries.

The Motorcycle fire was contained shortly after 4 p.m. and firefighters headed down to help with the Mill 2 fire.

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