Drone operator arrested for interfering with firefighting aircraft

Gene Alan Carpenter
Gene Alan Carpenter

A man was arrested in Prescott, Arizona for flying a drone into the airspace near the Goodwin Fire that as of Friday had burned over 25,000 acres southeast of the city.

Gene Alan Carpenter, a 54-year-old from Prescott Valley, is accused of endangering 14 aircraft and ground personnel with a “substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury” by flying a drone near or over the fire. All firefighting aircraft had to be grounded for about an hour on Wednesday, June 28.

In 2016 Arizona passed a law making it illegal to fly a drone that interfered with emergency or law enforcement efforts. It is likely that a Temporary Flight Restriction was in effect over the fire at that time which would make it a violation of federal law for any aircraft to invade the space without permission.

If a drone collided with a firefighting helicopter or fixed wing aircraft it could cause great harm especially if it hit a windshield or engine. And if the aircraft crashes, killing the pilots, firefighters on the ground would also be in danger from the falling debris.

The safety of firefighters is compromised when all of the helicopters, lead planes, air attack, and air tankers are grounded, preventing the aircraft from slowing the fire so that firefighters can move in and construct fireline. When aircraft and ground personnel disengage, homes and private property could be destroyed that might otherwise have been saved with an aggressive firefighting attack. Some air tankers when grounded by an intruding aircraft can’t land with a full load of retardant, so they have to jettison it, wasting thousands of dollars worth of the product.

On June 24 multiple witnesses reported seeing a man operating a drone at the Goodwin Fire standing next to a white van.

Below is an excerpt from an article at 12news:

The sheriff’s office said based on witness information, drone descriptions and photos from Carpenter’s website showing drone views of the Goodwin Fire, deputies began searching for him.

Carpenter was arrested Friday afternoon after an off-duty deputy spotted his van on Willow Creek Road in Prescott. The drone was found in the van and seized.

Detectives are meeting with federal officials Monday to discuss additional charges based on the federal statutes regarding temporary flight restrictions.

Mr. Carter is in custody at Yavapai County facilities at Camp Verde, Arizona charged with 14 counts of endangerment, all felonies, and one misdemeanor.

Three DC-10 air tankers help firefighters slow growth of Goodwin Fire in Arizona

Above: Goodwin Fire, June 27, 2017. Photo by Christina Montiel, U.S. Forest Service.

(Originally published at 10:50 a.m. MDT June 29, 2017)

Firefighters were successful Wednesday in halting the spread of the Goodwin Fire near Mayer, Arizona. There was very little movement of the fire yesterday except for the southwest corner and the north side.

The southwest side spread about a quarter mile to the south, while the north side was very active, moving in some areas about 1.5 miles north along 5 miles of fire perimeter.

The growth added about 4,100 acres to the fire, bringing the total size to 24,828 acres.

map Goodwin fire
Map of the Goodwin Fire. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 4:17 a.m. MDT June 29. The Red line was the perimeter at 11 p.m. MDT June 28, while the white line was the perimeter at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017.

Over 150 firefighters worked Tuesday night creating dozer lines between the fire and Mayer. Those lines were burned out Wednesday which prevented any significant growth toward the town. Firefighters were able to contain the 500 acres that burned east of Highway 69 between Poland Junction and Mayer. Wednesday morning the fire spread into a basin toward Poland Junction, but winds were lighter and the relative humidity did not drop to the low levels that contributed to Tuesday’s expansion.

Evacuations are still in place for several communities and Highway 69 is closed. There has been no change in the number of structures reportedly destroyed — it remains at nine, and it is unknown if they are residences or outbuildings.

Three very large air tankers, DC-10’s that carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant, assisted firefighters on the ground Wednesday, reducing the fire’s intensity around endangered structures. The DC-10’s are often used on wildfires, but there are only three of the “Very Large Air Tankers” on contract with the federal government, and it is unusual for all of them to be working the same fire. They were reloading with retardant at Phoenix Mesa-Gateway airport 80 miles southeast of the fire.

Rick Hatton, President and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said their three DC-10’s completed a total of 14 sorties to the Goodwin Fire during 16 total hours of flying Wednesday. He said the facilities and crews at the air tanker base accommodated the three huge aircraft very well.

Two of the aircraft are on exclusive use contracts with the U.S. Forest Service, and a third is on a call when needed contract.

Even though $2.4 million was spent in 2014 to improve the apron and plumbing at the air tanker base at Prescott, 15 miles from the fire, it was not designed to handle Very Large Air Tankers. But it can handle the “large” or “heavy” air tankers, such as the 2,000 to 3,500 gallon P2V, BAe-146, RJ85, MD-87, 737, and C-130.

And, as you can see below, Prescott makes a good temporary home for the helicopters working the Goodwin Fire.

An illegally operated drone flew into the fire area Wednesday, forcing all firefighting aircraft to be grounded for safety reasons. Law enforcement responded and is investigating the incident. Hobbyist drone operators are reminded that “if you fly, we can’t fly.” There is a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the fire area and it is against federal law to fly a drone within the restricted area.

In the video below you will see what appears to be a privately owned Blackhawk helicopter, a Firehawk, dropping retardant. Most of the time helicopters drop water directly on the flames, but the long term retardant can be effective when applied ahead of the fire.

Another helicopter dropping retardant:

Goodwin Fire crosses Highway 69 at Mayer, grows to 20,000 acres

Above: 3-D map of the Goodwin Fire at 9 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017.

(Originally published at 7:04 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017)
(Updated at 11:45 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017)

Wednesday morning the Goodwin fire was five times larger than it was 24 hours earlier. Southwest winds and low humidities caused it to spread to the northeast threatening the town of Mayer, Arizona which was under a mandatory evacuation order. It crossed highway 69 just north of the town and as of 9 p.m. Tuesday had spread for another two miles east of the highway, growing to about 20,600 acres. The previous night it was at 4,400 acres and had expanded to about 12,000 acres by 2:40 p.m. Tuesday.

The weather forecast for Wednesday is not good news for firefighters. The outlook is for 93 degrees, 11 percent relative humidity, and by noon the wind should increase to 12 to 15 mph out of the south to southwest with gusts to 27.

At a media briefing Wednesday at 11:20 a.m., Incident Commander John Pierson said an area of fuel mitigation completed by the state of Arizona north of Mayer was instrumental in helping to protect the town as the fire ran across Highway 69. He also said there is a good chance the portion of the fire that is east of the Highway can be contained by the dozers and hand crews that are working in that area.

On Wednesday air tankers began dropping retardant on the fire at 8 a.m. There are no ground troops in those locations to follow up and construct firelines, so the best firefighters can hope for, Mr. Pierson said, is that the spread of the fire will be slowed or delayed.

While the fire was making its big run Tuesday, a weather station at Sunset Point 14 miles southeast of the fire recorded a temperature of 101 degrees, 3 percent relative humidity, and 11 to 15 mph winds out of the south to southwest winds gusting at 23 to 31 mph.

map Goodwin Fire
Map of the Goodwin Fire at 9 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017.

Highway 69 is closed at Mayer. Evacuations are in effect for several communities in the area.

The National Situation Report says nine structures have burned since the fire started, but it is unclear when or where that occurred. There are no reports yet of any structures being destroyed as the fire approached Mayer. A June 27 news release from the Incident Management Team includes this information:

Goodwin Fire managers and cooperators have been receiving inquiries regarding structures damaged or destroyed during the first day of Goodwin Fire. It was reported that structures have been destroyed and the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office personnel are working with fire officials to determine the extent of damaged structures. However, this can only be accomplished when it is safe for deputies to enter, complete an accurate assessment, and determine ownership. Efforts to expedite the release of such information is ongoing. In the meantime, the patience of those residents who have been evacuated is greatly appreciated.

Beth Lund’s Type 1 Incident Management Team which had been staged at Phoenix has been ordered for the fire. They will be working with John Pierson’s Type 1 Incident Management Team that is already there.

In the video below, smoke from the Goodwin Fire can be seen in the lower-left corner. The other fire to the north is the Brian Head Fire east of Cedar City, Utah.

All articles on Wildfire Today about the Goodwin Fire near Mayer, Arizona.

Goodwin Fire forces evacuation of Mayer, Arizona

Above: The map shows the approximate location of the Goodwin Fire at 2:40 pm MDT, June 27, 2017. The data was supplied by a NOAA satellite and is a very rough estimate.

(UPDATED at 8:31 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)
(Originally published at 5:57 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)

The spread of the Goodwin Fire toward Highway 69 and Mayer, Arizona forced the mandatory evacuation Tuesday afternoon of the entire town and its 928 residents. The community of Pine Flat was previously evacuated.

According to satellite data we acquired at 2:40 p.m. MDT on Tuesday, at that time the Goodwin Fire was 12 miles southeast of Prescott, 1 mile west of Mayer, and 6 miles southwest of Dewey-Humboldt. According to the data, the fire has burned approximately 13,000 acres —  that is a VERY unofficial estimate, three times the size determined by an infrared mapping flight Monday night, which was 4,400 acres. Consider the 13,000 acre figure preliminary and a very rough estimate until the next mapping flight Tuesday night.

smoke Goodwinda and Brian Head Fires
At 7:37 p.m. MDT a satellite photographed smoke from the Goodwin and Brian Head Fires.

On Tuesday afternoon the fire was driven by southwest to southeast winds of 8 to 15 mph with gusts up to 22 mph. A weather station at Spring Valley southeast of the fire Tuesday afternoon recorded 95 degrees and a relative humidity of 6 percent.

C-130 Drop Goodwin Fire
A C-130 drops on the Goodwin Fire Tuesday evening, June 27. Screen grab from Fox10 live video.

The fire started three days ago on June 24 and is being managed by John Pierson’s Type 1 Incident Management Team.

Diane Souder, a spokesperson for the fire, said Tuesday at 5:50 p.m. MDT resources working on the fire included 2 air tankers, 4 helicopters, 29 engines, and 525 personnel.

Map of the Goodwin Fire
Map of the Goodwin Fire posted by John Pierson’s Type 1 Incident Management Team June 27, 2017.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.