Officials say that ground crews had to find the drone operators and tell them to stop flying around the fire before aircraft were able to continue attempts to control the blaze.
A tow truck removes the charred remains of a vehicle on Interstate 15 along the Cajon Pass, Friday, July 17, 2015, near San Bernadino, Calif., after a fast-moving wildfire swept across the Southern California freeway, destroying numerous vehicles and sending motorists running to safety before burning at least five homes.
Five such “unmanned aircraft systems” prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared Friday onto a Los Angeles area freeway that leads to Las Vegas.
The massive fire also spread into a nearby rural community called Baldy Mesa, where 4 houses were burned.
Of all the elements they must battle in a wildfire, firefighters face a new foe: drones operated by enthusiasts who presumably take close-up video of the disaster. Adding to the congestion was construction work going on in the area, said San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins.
He grabbed his car’s paperwork, got out and started to run.
“You could see the flames moving from the west side of the I-15 freeway, and basically we just watched it as it literally jumped over the freeway and started the fire on the other side”.
Southwest winds drove the flames over the freeway, igniting at least a half-dozen vehicles, including a big rig, which was destroyed, according to images captured by local media.
A wildfire driven by desert gales scorched 3,500 acres of Southern California drought land in just four hours on Friday. “People were running. I thought, ‘OK, this is it.’ I really did”, she said.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department said 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is about 5 percent contained.
Another brush fire on Friday overran Interstate 15, north of San Bernardino, destroying four structures and torching 20 vehicles. Several motorists reportedly had to abandon their vehicles as they escaped. Near a separate, smaller fire in the same mountains, sheriff’s deputies evacuated 90 girl scouts from a campground.
Highway patrolmen who arrived on site have reportedly said that this was the fastest spreading fire they have ever seen, leaving people no choice but to flee for their lives.
It being a Friday afternoon, however, Interstate 15 was typically jammed with vehicles traveling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.