The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office says 54-year-old Gene Alan Carpenter from Prescott Valley has been arrested for interfering with fire fighting efforts of the Goodwin Fire while flying a drone in the area.
YCSO says Carpenter recklessly endangered 14 aircrafts and the ground crews associated by flying an unmanned drone in close airspace to the Goodwin Fire between June 24 and June 28.
YCSO says on June 24 a witness told them they saw a man flying an unmanned drone from the Mount Union Lookout tower in the area. Several other tips were called in that week about a man flying a drone in the area as well, and YCSO says Carpenter was identified as a possible suspect because of prior contact.
An Air Attack Pilot helping to fight the Goodwin Fire says that on June 28 he was forced to ground 14 aircraft including 5 helicopters and several air tankers because a drone was spotted circling one of the aircraft. Based on that decision, ground crews were also forced to disengage from the fire because they were left with no aerial support.
Photos were eventually found on Carpenter’s website showing aerial photos allegedly taken from his drone of the Goodwin Fire. The drone was also found inside Carpenter’s van when he was pulled over by YCSO.
Carpenter has been charged with endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft. Further charges may be handed down after YCSO meets Monday with federal officials.