Drone Photographer Arrested for Impeding Forest Fire Rescuers

A 54-year old aerial photographer was charged with endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft when he allegedly invaded a no-fly zone intended for firefighting teams battling a forest fire.

Kelli Klymenko / Getty

Aerial photographer Gene Alan Carpenter was arrested last week for allegedly impeding the efforts of firefighters battling a blazing forest fire in Goodwin, Arizona. According to the Arizona Republic, the 54-year old man broke a law passed in 2016 which makes it illegal for a drone to obstruct the efforts of law-enforcement agencies in emergency situations. His decision to repeatedly fly his photography drone around the emergency area in question allegedly caused 14 aircraft and emergency response crews to halt their efforts, which in turn allowed the fire to continue turning trees and wildlife to ash. 

Drone photography is an amazing tool to use, as it allows artists and recreational users to capture images from vantage points hitherto unavailable to the average consumer or photographer. What Carpenter did, however, needlessly endangered lives, and allowed for further damage to the local ecosystem. 

According to the Arizona Republic, the local Yavapai Country Sheriff's office slapped Carpenter with "endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft," which resulted in unnecessarily creating "substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury" to the aforementioned emergency response teams. Have a look at Carpenter's mugshot below. He certainly doesn't seem like a monster or an intentionally hurtful person. Of course, judging somebody by their appearance isn't a wise. However, he seems fairly harmless—just reckless enough to put people in danger.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office

Dwight D'Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, made it clear that the area on fire had been declared a no-fly zone for any and all non-firefighting aerial entities, which is where the unlawful charge Carpenter has been hit with comes into play. Fortunately, witnesses saw a man flying a drone near this area and reported it to local officials, as did the U.S. Forest Service. Had this not happened sooner, or at all, Carpenter could've obstructed the firefighting response teams even longer than he had, causing greater harm and endangerment to all involved.