Man arrested for flying drone over the Goodwin Fire

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YCSO has arrested Gene Carpenter for Unlawful Operation of an Unmanned Aircraft. YCSO has arrested Gene Carpenter for Unlawful Operation of an Unmanned Aircraft.
Photo of Goodwin Fire taken from Carpenter's website Photo of Goodwin Fire taken from Carpenter's website
PRESCOTT VALLEY (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office says deputies have arrested the drone operator they say cause firefighters to temporarily suspend their battle against the Goodwin Fire.

Fifty-four-year-old Gene Alan Carpenter from Prescott Valley is charged with endangering firefighters by flying in closed airspace, and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft.

YCSO says on June 24, the day the fire started, a witness and a U.S. Forest Service employee reported seeing a white van and a man flying a drone.

Additional reports of a drone operating near the fire were received throughout the week.

YCSO says on June 28, that same drone was spotted circling a firefighting plane. As a result, all 14 aircraft were forced to land for nearly an hour, leaving ground crews unprotected.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wildfires]

During this, and all wildfires, the airspace is temporarily restricted, making it illegal to fly a drone.  A rule wildland management groups take very seriously.

"Our aircraft fly just above the tree height, just above ground level about 200 feet sometimes, that's pretty low. And the last thing we need is a drone getting caught up in the rotors of a helicopter, or in the engine of one of our airtankers, or the engine of one of our lead planes," said Dolores Garcia with the Bureau of Land Management. “If you fly, we can’t fly.”

Investigators say they were able to find Carpenter’s website, and drone photos taken of the Goodwin Fire.

On Friday, an off-duty YCSO deputy saw Carpenter’s van on Willow Creek Road in Prescott. A drone was found inside the van and was seized.

Carpenter was arrested, and booked into the Camp Verde Detention Center. He remains in custody; the bond has not yet been set.

Detectives will meet with federal officials Monday to consider additional charges. 

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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