Calamity struck in drought dried Los Angeles this weekend when a common brushfire in the Cajon Pass grew too big to handle for emergency services. The fire began around 2:30 in the afternoon and quickly grew into an overwhelming conflagration that destroyed 3,500 acres of land. The fire spread both directions up Interstate 15, destroying 20 vehicles and at least 4 homes along the way.
While no one was harmed during the blaze, the sudden appearance of the fire left the 20 car owners panicked and unsure whether they should evacuate. However, as the fire quickly rose up around them, embers flying onto the 15 and cars catching fire, the vehicle owners fled the scene.
While the dry grass and now nearly 70 vehicles parked on the 15 made fighting the fire a difficult task for emergency responders, a group of unknown hobbyists added another layer of problems for the firefighters.
In a gridlocked scenario like the 15 fire or in any situation where the source of the fire is hard to reach, it is common practice to deploy firefighting helicopters to douse the blaze. However, a recent trend in California and across the country has left the skies occasionally clogged with unmanned flying drones. These drones pose a potential risk to helicopters, and 5 were present in the chaos of the wildfire.
As a result, the helicopters remained grounded until the hobbyists drones landed. They were delayed for 25 minutes and prevented from an additional water drop which could have improved the situation and potentially saved vehicles.
The drone pilots were not found, and continue to remain unknown. With the ongoing drought in California and the increased risk of wildfire activity, the issue of drone usage may become extremely controversial in the weeks to come if drones continue to pose a challenge to emergency workers.