‘Moron’ flies drone above Lake Christine Fire, draws ire of fire command, elected officials | SummitDaily.com

‘Moron’ flies drone above Lake Christine Fire, draws ire of fire command, elected officials

Looking across Highway 82 toward El Jebel, the night sky turns orange from the Lake Christine fire after the winds shift, forcing additional evacuations in the area on Wednesday, July 4, in El Jebel.
Chris Council and Emily Chaplin / special to the daily

Authorities are tracking down a man who flew a drone over the Lake Christine Fire Thursday and potentially put pilots at risk.

The incident command team was unaware of the violation until Friday, after the person posted video of the flight on social media, according to Dean Neel, air operations branch director for Northern Rockies Incident Command.

Law enforcement authorities, or possibly the Federal Aviation Administration, were able to determine his identity and are trying to track the man down, he said.

“Off the highway a guy put the drone up,” Neel said. “He flew it. Nobody on the fire saw it.”

The man returned to his car and drove away without incident.

Neel and incident commander Mike Almus said the drone use didn’t cease air operations in this case, but its use had the potential to jeopardize firefighters through a collision with aircraft.

“If some moron wants to take a drone out above a firefighting operation they need to stop it, they need to quit it, they’re putting lives in danger and jeopardy,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said at a news conference at the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel Friday morning. “So I think we need to get word out to people they need to knock it off and let firefighters do their job.”

Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper weighed in after Gardner.

“Just to emphasize that, there was some posting of drones in the last couple of day where you could actually see the shadow of tankers flying directly above,” Hickenlooper said. “Whatever benevolent thought you may have flying a drone over the fire area and reporting to the public what it looks like, you’re putting people’s lives in danger.”

It was uncertain if Hickenlooper was referring specifically to the Lake Christine Fire or another of the other nine wildfires burning in Colorado.

Neel said federal firefighting teams are constantly dealing with drone use by the public in fire areas.

“It’s a constant problem,” he said.

Gardner said it has forced firefighters to ground planes, wasting valuable time and resources.

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