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United States Hardware Technology

'Personal Drone' Crash Causes 335-Acre Wildfire In Coconino National Forest (azcentral.com) 70

McGruber writes: A "personal drone" that crashed and burst into flames was the cause of the Kendrick Fire, a 335-acre fire in the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. Coconino National Forest spokesman George Jozens said that about 30 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Summit Fire and Medical worked to quell the fire.

'Personal Drone' Crash Causes 335-Acre Wildfire In Coconino National Forest

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If I crash my car on the highway and the fire from it causes a wildfire, am I liable?

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cogeek ( 2425448 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @06:23PM (#56230081)
      Um, Yes!

      If you crash your car and it's your fault, you are liable. We have people prosecuted for accidental wildfires regularly in Colorado.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually yes. That's what your car insurance is for. In what alternate reality did you think you were not liable ?

      • I think my car insurance covers only $25k of property damage. And the minimum coverage for property damage in my state(CA) is $5k. So you might be in some serious financial trouble if you are at fault for causing a wildfire with your car.

        Drones may be difficult to cover. There is home owner insurance that can cover some things related to your personal property. And there is stuff like AMA (American Moderlers Association) which includes an insurance with the membership. But as far as I know they've never pai

        • I think my car insurance covers only $25k of property damage. And the minimum coverage for property damage in my state(CA) is $5k. So you might be in some serious financial trouble if you are at fault for causing a wildfire with your car.

          Yes, if you buy the legal minimum and it is a pittance, you may be in trouble if you cause damage to anything larger than a bicycle.

          Drones may be difficult to cover.

          No. Join AMA [modelaircraft.org] (not medical) and it lists $25,000 liability insurance as one of the benefits.

          But as far as I know they've never paid out an insurance claim in the many decades they've been around.

          Would they send you a registered letter telling you that they've paid any claims that you weren't personally involved in? Then how would you know? Why would what you know be any better information than what they advertise?

    • Generally, the decision about holding you financially liable depends on if your actions were illegal, reckless, irresponsible, or if it was just a pure accident.

      You're responsible for any damage your vehicle does, but the government agencies who make the decisions about your responsibility don't even get the money; the money just goes back to some other part of the government to reimburse them, it doesn't go back to the fire budget.

      If you crashed because you were being an asshole, expect to pay for all thos

      • I doubt they'll get billed, since the thing did explode, they didn't just crash it.

        That's what will be the exculpatory fact if born out by the evidence. If a reasonable person would not normally expect or anticipate some device or appliance to behave in an extremely dangerous manner (i.e. sudden spontaneous battery explosion and fire) the prosecutors and courts will generally allow someone not otherwise criminally/legally entangled off the hook.

        A short time ago, if some poor slob's Galaxy Note 7 had spontaneously exploded and caused a fire in the same place I don't see authorities holding

        • It doesn't need to be "borne out by evidence" because it is part of the initial report of the incident. Rather, you'd need evidence that something different happened before questioning it. It isn't actually clear that there was even a device malfunction, it might simply have heated up enough that when it landed on dry grass it ignited it.

          It also doesn't matter what prosecutors and courts think. The legal liability is there because he owned the drone. If the Forest Service chooses to bill him for the damage,

      • Here they are saying, if you are doing an activity like flying a drone you have to bring a fire extinguisher with you so you can put out any fire yourself. Otherwise don't bring battery powered toys into the National Forest.

        On one hand, I always do this. I have an extinguisher in every vehicle already, so it is no stretch to bring one with me when I fly something.

        On the other hand, it's probably a jerkoff waste of time. I've got two quads and a styrofoam trainer which has been modded into a drone. Styrofoam burns like a motherfucker so if that plane goes down anywhere but right next to me, and it burns, there's really nothing I can do about it. And lithium batteries also burn like mad bastards, and you can only put them out by

        • Having a fire extinguisher in the car in this situation is unlikely to be good enough. It might just lead you to where this guy ended up, reporting a fire. Grass fires spread rapidly, and fire extinguishers have very limited volume. You need to have it with you in the field where you can access it rapidly.

          You don't need to put the fire out, you need to stop it from spreading to other fuels. That means you need to be spraying the grass around the drone. It doesn't matter very much if the drone sits there bur

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        There's also a difference between "caused" and "triggered". If I store several leaky gas cans in my basement and one day the hot water heater clicks on and ignites the vapors and burns down my house, the hot water header did NOT "cause" the fire. My stupidity the gas cans was the cause, the HWH was just the trigger.

        Thousands of acres of very flammable woodlands are just begging for an ignition source to start a wildfire. Unless the pilot's intent was to cause a fire and was taking advantage of the tinder

        • Sure, but the fire manager already knows you caused the fire.

          They're making that distinction already, as a technical matter, before they even start to ask if you should be held fully to account!

          It has more to do with emotional factors like, how much is the community freaked out by the fire? In Grandma crying on TV, or just some jerk complaining his insurance company is too slow? That makes a big difference. Were the firefighters really stressed and worried by it, or was it a routine fire? If the fire manage

          • by v1 ( 525388 )

            Should this go to court, we will hear the phrase, the lawyer for the defense will speak these words, probably very close to verbatim: "Would a reasonable person believe that flying their quad in this location created a significant risk starting a forrest fire?"

            Lets face it, anytime you fly a quad you risk starting a fire below where you are flying. Bizarre things can happen, totally unlikely things CAN happen. A seagull or hawk could tackle your quad without warning, sending it plummeting in the ground, pu

            • Nope, they have strict liability. Legally they can hammer as hard as they want.

              The reason they don't always do it is that the person deciding isn't really a cop, or a lawyer.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @06:27PM (#56230103)

    A "personal drone" that crashed and burst into flames

    Man, that's the last time I buy a used drone from a Hollywood special effects studio!

  • 335 acres (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2018 @06:28PM (#56230111)

    Just for the record, 335 acres is about 1/2 square mile. Not quite as big as it sounds. I'm not saying that makes it no big deal...just clarifying context.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by quenda ( 644621 )

      Just for the record, 335 acres is about 1/2 square mile.

      or 1.3x10^34 barns. Whats that in square rods? Cubits?

      When are you folks going to get with the 20th century and use metres, sorry, meters, like God intended?

      • That's the 0th century, dude. The French Revolutionaries who spun up the Metric System also reset the calendar.

        It was just as arbitrary an idea, but didn't really take hold.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          The French really screwed up by not switching to a metric second (1/100,000 of a day) along with the kg and metre.
          So we are a bit stuck with non-decimal calendar/clocks, but that's no excuse for persisting with hour-based non-SI units such as km/hr and kWhrs.

      • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @10:54PM (#56231513) Homepage Journal

        There is nothing inhernetly superior with the metric system over the US customary system. It's just numbers and names and you can standardize and be equally accurate with either. And while there are anachronism to this system, much of the obscure parts are considered obsolete and not normally used by people (including scientists and engineers who do still use the US system in industry). NOTE: UK / Imperial system is a related but not identical system.

        What was a tremendous problem was when Europe had a different system in each country and sometimes different systems in different parts of the same country, and those systems are often using the same names to mean slightly different standards of measurements. Total freaking nightmare, and thank the gods (or Frenchmen) for its wide adoption.

        That said, we could do much better than the metric system. Celcius is a particularly unfortunate unit.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          There is nothing inhernetly superior with the metric system over the US customary system.

          You've clearly never done any science or engineering. Even social scientists can appreciate the benefits of the decimal system, and avoiding conversion factors.
          Not to mention the ongoing problems in the US with two standards running at once. [cough] Mars Climate Orbiter [/cough]

          • Even social scientists can appreciate the benefits of the decimal system, and avoiding conversion factors.

            _Especially_ social scientists, I'd say...

    • It's also only roughly 1.86x10^-2 percent of the park.

      That being said, it really depends on what sort of biome was destroyed. If it was normal forest and brush, not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things ( not that it was a GOOD thing, but...). If it was a rare soil biome or some other rare desert biome then that would be worse.

      • The photo in the story shows unburnt second growth conifers standing over burnt grassland, with cabins. So not a sensitive area.

    • Taken out of context, it's not that big but when you consider that Arizona is in drought conditions and that Type 1 Wild Fire teams have been brought in two months ahead of schedule, this is a much bigger deal. We got very lucky that there wasn't much wind and that it had snowed recently. If this happens this summer, we're going to have a big problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A drone crash-landed and burst into flames? That's a thing now?? (the second part, not the first)

    Are these things really being built like Pintos nowadays?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Drone operators should take insurance for this.

    • a) they did,
      b) a bill doesn't automatically mean someone needs insurance.

      Speaking of I think I need to take out hunger insurance in case I need to go buy some lunch.

  • Additional details about the type of drone were not immediately available.

    Well, hell, the only piece of info I wanted from TFS. That'll teach me...

  • by az-saguaro ( 1231754 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @11:29PM (#56231607)

    Above, Anonymous Coward wrote "Just for the record, 335 acres is about 1/2 square mile. Not quite as big as it sounds. I'm not saying that makes it no big deal...just clarifying context."

    So, as someone who lives in Arizona, allow me to clarify context.

    This is a hot and dry State, and 15 years of drought has created a lot of dry brush, aka "fuel" in our forests and chaparral and grasslands and deserts. This is also an outdoor activities State, and people camping and hiking can do dangerous things with campfires and other tools and toys. Also, as suburban settlement pushes farther into rural areas, not only does ignition risk go up, but risks of injury, death, and lost property also increase. You might have seen last year's movie "Only the Brave" about the Yarnell Hill fire in 2013. That was a relatively small fire, only 8500 acres, in which 19 firefighters were killed.

    Here are some numbers:

    Year _ Number of fires _ Acres Burnt
    2004 _ 2,602 _ 219,900
    2005 _ 4,027 _ 975,456
    2006 _ 3,274 _ 177,427
    2007 _ 2,240 _ 101,381
    2008 _ 1,850 _ 85,496
    2009 _ 2,371 _ 263,358
    2010 _ 1,517 _ 74,445
    2011 _ 1,969 _ 1,036,935
    2012 _ 1,684 _ 216,090
    2013 _ 1,449 _ 100,836

    Fire Name _ Year _ County _ Acres Burnt _ Structures Lost _ Human Deaths _ Cause

    Dude _ 1990 _ Coconino _ 28,000 _ 63 _ 6 _ lightning
    Rattlesnake _ 1994 _ Cochise _ 25,000 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Rio _ 1995 _ Maricopa _ 23,000 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Lone _ 1996 _ Maricopa _ 61,300 _ 0 _ 0 _ human
    Pumpkin _ 2000 _ Coconino _ 14,760 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Rodeo–Chediski _ 2002 _ Coconino _ 468,638 _ 426 _ 0 _ human
    Aspen _ 2003 _ Pima-Pinal _ 84,750 _ >325 _ 0 _ human
    Willow _ 2004 _ Gila _ 119,500 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Nuttall-Gibson _ 2004 _ Graham _ 30,000 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Cave Creek _ 2005 _ Maricopa-Yavapai _ 243,950 _ 11+ _ 0 _ lightning
    Florida _ 2005 _ Santa Cruz _ 23,183 _ 0 _ 0 _ lightning
    Schultz _ 2005 _ Coconino _ 15,075 _ 0 _ 0 _ human
    Horseshoe 2011 _ Cochise _ 222,954 _ 23 0 _ 0 _ human
    Monument _ 2011 _ Cochise _ 30,526 _ 64 _ 0 _ human
    Wallow _ 2011 _ Apache-Graham-Greenlee-Navajo _ 538,049 _ 72 _ 0 _ human
    Gladiator _ 2012 _ Yavapai _ 16,240 _ 6 _ 0 _ human
    Yarnell Hill _ 2013 _ Yavapai _ 8,500 _ 129 _ 19 _ lightning
    Slide _ 2014 _ Coconino _ 21,227 _ 0 _ 0 _ human

    [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ]

    Many fires are small, but they cost time, effort, risk, and dollars to prevent growing into huge conflagrations. Fire prevention and containment is serious business here in Arizona. Counties regularly issue prohibitions about not only campfires, but even about burning wood in urban fireplaces. Human caused fires are on the increase, and latest numbers from the State are that ninety percent, 90%, of Arizona wildfires are man made, some deliberately, but mostly inadvertent, some honest accidents, and many just plain stupid acts by idiots. Penalties vary but can be costly in terms of dollars and time in jail. In other areas that are more temperate, rainy, and wetland, wildfire risk may not be so severe, but here in Arizona, playing with motorized ignitable toys in forested areas is a genuine threat, even for just "small" fires.

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.