Unregistered drone grounded firefighting helicopter in Saratoga

- Flames weren't the only thing firefighters had to battle yesterday in the Saratoga Foothills. A drone forced a firefighting helicopter to land before being confiscated by firefighters. Now the operator could face charges.

Firefighters say the drone was unregistered and belonged to a hobbyist. That person could face misdemeanor charges after firefighters had to temporarily ground the helicopter. Investigators say this is the first time they've ever confiscated a drone that was hindering fire operations.

There is video of firefighters on a steep charred hillside where the fire burned up to the Mount Eden vineyard. The cause of the fire, which started around 4 p.m. on Monday, is still under investigation.

Fire crews with Santa Clara County Fire Department and CalFire launched an aerial fight, but one of the helicopters faced a dangerous situation when a drone was spotted around 7:30 p.m.

"As one of the helicopters was coming in, he spotted a drone over the area. A mid-air collision with a drone could be catastrophic. It can crash that helicopter and kill pilots, kill people on the ground as well. We watched the drone land and were able to go to the location and apprehend and confiscate the drone," said Ryan Cronin, a Santa Clara County chief fire investigator. 

The fire has been held to 10 acres and is 50 percent contained, but by all accounts, it is in mop up mode. 

At the Mountain Winery, which was one ridge over from the fire, preparations are underway for tonight's Lyle Lovett concert. The winery says it will go on as scheduled. 

 

 

 

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