Mono County Sheriff press releases
Drones are becoming an increasingly popular recreational activity on forest land and throughout the country. However, drones flying near wildland fires pose a serious and immediate threat to the safety of aircraft crews involved in fire response.
Individuals and organizations that fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly referred to as drones, for hobby or recreational purposes may not operate them in areas of National Forest System lands that have Temporary Flight Restrictions in place, such as wildfires, without prior approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
The Federal Aviation Administration has regulatory authority over all airspace, including recreational use of airspace by model aircraft .Individuals and organizations that fly drones on National Forest System lands must follow FAA guidance – FAA guidance stipulates that UAS not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The FAA also requires model aircraft operators flying UAS within five miles of an airport to notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower. For more information, watch the “Know Before You Fly” videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF5Q9JvBhxM&feature=youtu.be(link is external) and visit the Know Before You Fly Website athttp://www.knowbeforeyoufly.org/(link is external)
Please, for the safety of our firefighters and for an effective fire response, please keep drones away from the Walker Fire and near heliports.
On Monday, August 17, 2015, at approximately 4:30pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Office Deputies assigned to the Walker Fire Incident responded to the Incident Command Post (ICP) in Lee Vining regarding two suspicious males claiming to be media representatives wanting to cover the fire.
Aaron Browne, age 44, of Meadow Vista, California, and Payton Ware, age 33, of Elk Grove, California, presented media credentials that aroused the suspicions of the incident management staff at the Walker Fire ICP. Mr. Browne and Mr. Ware were dressed in new firefighter type gear, with a “Wildland Fire Fighter” hat on, with no designation of any identifying geographical area or crew name. Mr. Browne was driving a white pickup truck full of fire and camping gear, including “line lunches” from several other fires.
Due to the suspicious media credentials, it was believed that Mr. Browne and Mr. Ware were trying to gain access to the fire ground. People try to gain access to fire grounds for reasons such as to steal equipment and supplies or to attempt to contact California Department of Corrections inmate fire crews to smuggle contraband or weapons to the inmates. A check was conducted on both Mr. Browne and Mr. Ware to verify their credentials. Their credentials were in fact falsified and both men had no media affiliation. Mr. Browne was also verified as a convicted felon. Mr. Browne and Mr. Ware were detained on scene and their vehicle searched. A hard case belonging to Mr. Browne was found containing a canister of pepper spray. Mr. Ware was released at the scene.
Aaron Browne, age 44, of Meadow Vista, California, was arrested for a violation of Penal Code 22810(a) – Felon in possession of pepper spray. He was transported without incident to Bridgeport to the Mono County Jail.
All charges against Mr. Browne are pending with the Mono County District Attorney’s Office.
Written and reported by: Jennifer M. Hansen, Public Information Officer
On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, at approximately 12:45pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Office Deputies assigned to the Walker Fire Incident responded to the Sawmill Campground on Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass) for a report of stolen campsite property.
Campers in the Sawmill Campground along Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass) observed a transient hiker in their camp space. A locked bear box was broken into and camping supplies were missing. The campers detained the transient hiker and contact law enforcement for assistance
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol, responded to the campsite. Mono County Sheriff’s Deputies hiked to the transient hiker’s campsite. With the consent of the hiker, they searched the site and located the stolen camping supplies. All property was returned to the campers. The campers didn’t want to prosecute and the transient hiker was released at the scene.
This incident serves as a reminder to beware during the fire incident of looters. If you see any suspicious looking people or circumstances, please contact the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932-7549 ext. 7 and report the incident.