The pilot of a "quadcopter" drone that nearly interrupted aerial firefighting efforts when it hovered over the massive Sand fire east of Sacramento posted a brief explanation online alongside the footage he took from the air.
“This footage just collaborates the effort of firefighting and there [sic] efforts to protect us. The fire break is one example of techniques used to help contain the fire,” the video description says. Among other images, the video captures a bulldozer trenching a line through thick vegetation.
The videographer uses the name “jayzaerial” and, at the end of the five-minute video, identifies himself as Jason Bross and points viewers to his Facebook page. There, he lists himself as a photographer and member of an El Dorado community watch group.
On Sunday, El Dorado County sheriff's officials asked that the drone — spotted in the area east of Highway 49, five miles north of Plymouth — cease flying to keep it from entering the flight path of low-flying aircraft making drops on the 3,800-acre fire, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.
Bross has posted two videos of the Sand fire, one from a great distance showing fixed wing aircraft dropping flame retardant and a second directly over the flames showing efforts on the ground.
“Lesson learned, not a good idea to fly near a fire,” Bross wrote with the video. “Wont [sic] be doing that again. This video was not produced for the intent to make money this was only to portray a live story. No money was made from the making of this video.”
While Bross has drawn the ire of authorities, among others, his filming has been well received in the past. Fox40 in Sacramento reported on Bross’ 3 1/2 minute drone video documenting the receding waters of Folsom Lake earlier this year and Sierra Community Access Television has posted his footage on their YouTube page. His company, Airshotz, appears to take aerial photographs of properties for real estate agents.
As of Tuesday morning, the Sand fire had burned 3,800 acres and was 80% contained. It has destroyed 13 homes and 38 other buildings. The number of crews assigned to the blaze are slowly being reassigned to other fires across the state.