SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KTVU) - For the second day, fire crews from around California and beyond are converging on th so-called "Bear Fire," that is burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Cal-Fire helicopters ferried buckets of water to release over drop points, which was a welcome sight around midday. Officials say the tools allow a two-pronged approach to this fire fight, but that fight was interrupted by someone flying a drone this afternoon.
"We utilize some many different tools to effectively and efficiently and quickly fight the fires, that our aerial aircraft firefighting resources are one of the key tools towards those efforts," said Amber Anderson, a Santa Barbara city firefighter who came up to Northern California to lend a hand.
Flames spanning 300 acres are burning to the north, west, and east in steep terrain, accessible along roads no wider than 10-feet. Much of the land is scorched, with flames still burning outside some homes in the 1600 block of Dons Road. Four structures have been destroyed, and another 300 are threatened. Nearly 900 firefighters from around California and beyond are using heavy equipment and hand tools to carve out a fire line, and increase containment -- now only at 15-percent.
"We're just trying to get established where the perimeter is and where the lines are. and we can get out there and get these lines secure and mop it up," said Steve Chapman, who drove done from Oregon as a part of the regional mutual aid to fires burning the Golden State.
The crucial water drops had been suspended for about one hour during the morning. The problem -- A drone operator launched a device and was flying above the fire zone, which is a no-fly zone.
"It's a very tight air space. and if we were to strike that drone, it could cause damage to one of our equipment. or if that drone were to crash, it could spark another wildfire which we obviously don't want," said Jordan Motta, a captain with CalFire.
All fire air drops were suspended until the drone was cleared from the area. Officials say the loss of an hour of air support hurt their efforts.
"As you can see the wind started picking up about the same time that air operations were canceled. so anytime there's wind, fire has the potential to spread. and we use those helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to prevent the spread of the fire."
Officials say the harm done by the drone's flight isn't irreparable, and is small in comparison to increasing winds and warming temperatures. But the drone's operator faces citation. And illegal drones weren't the only problem in the fire zone. Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department officials say 54-year-old Marlon Coy of Boulder Creek was arrested for suspicion of looting.
Coy is being held in the county jail, charged with burglary during a state emergency, and his bail is $200,000. He allegedly took $15,000 worth of property - mostly jewelry and a bicycle -from a residence in the 19000 block of Hidden Valley Lane.