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Thu, Oct. 17

Suspect responsible for illegal drone overflight of fire unidentified

The operator of an unmanned aerial vehicle violated the federal Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the Goodwin Fire on Wednesday, June 28, and caused the helicopters and airplanes fighting the fire to be grounded temporarily, according to the fire’s incident commanders.

Firefighting aircraft are required to land when a drone is within their operations area to prevent mid-air collisions.

Incident command team member Todd Abel said Thursday morning that an example of how an unauthorized flight can affect the firefight could be seen in the Breezy Pines neighborhood.

“What we were doing (Wednesday) to keep fire from getting to those structures,” he said, “is, we were using bucket-work from the helicopter to drop water on those hot spots, so that it wouldn’t get to those structures and cause damage.”

The illegal drone flight meant the helicopter had to land and it “could no longer help the firefighters (on the ground) from keeping the fire from impacting those structures.”

That also put the firefighters in an unsafe position, Abel said.

Abel said law enforcement had to be mobilized to search for the drone’s operator, but that person was not found and the drone eventually left the TFR area.

Thursday morning, Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted: “It is dangerous, it is stupid, and you are committing a crime. So please, just don’t do it.”

Yavapai County Sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said, “We have had several calls (regarding a possible suspect) and are following up,” but haven’t identified a suspect yet.

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