Drone Activity Hinders Sand Fire Fight

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Photo courtesy LASD
One of 18 homes destroyed during the recent Sand Fire, pictured here on Iron Canyon Road.


On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. announced it is investigating drone activity that was seen near the Sand Fire in the Pacoima Reservoir area. The announcement follows a Monday morning press conference where representatives from both fire and law enforcement departments spoke about drone activity in the area that was affecting the departments’ firefighting abilities.

Earlier in the week there were a couple of incidents where drones, or UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), were detected in the airspace over the Sand Fire. The FAA Temporary Flight Restriction is in effect in the area and any private aircraft or drone that violates that airspace will face criminal charges, according to the L.A. County Fire Dept.

The Sand Fire began on July 22 at about 2:15 p.m. The cause is still under investigation. As of 12:58 p.m. on Wednesday the Sand Fire had burned 38,346 acres of land and was 40% contained. There were about 3,000 total personnel, 275 engines, 68 hand crews, 14 water tenders, 20 helicopters and 29 dozers participating in fighting the fire. Property damage includes the loss of 18 structures; in addition, one structure was damaged and five structures had minor damage.

There was one life lost during the Sand Fire; that death continues to be investigated.

In addition to the drones, another issue that emergency responders faced was compliance with evacuation orders. Some of those who were being evacuated did not heed the warning when issued and some who did leave returned before it was considered safe. Most residents who were evacuated, including hundreds of large and small animals, have since been allowed to go back to their homes.

Chief Daryl Osby of the L.A. County Fire Dept. recalled a conversation he had with strike teams that had been assigned to fighting the fire near structures.

“[Strike team leaders] talked about how dynamic the fire conditions were,” Osby said. “They talked about the heat, they talked about the smoke.”

But despite the intense heat and smoke, firefighters said they found residents still in areas thought to be evacuated.

“When they were reassigned to one part of the fire to protect additional structures, they were surprised to see citizens there,” Osby said. “The citizens were trying to evacuate, trying to get their animals out at the same time [firefighters] were trying to protect homes.”

He added that firefighters felt bad that they lost structures, and that stopping to evacuate residents who should have already left the area negatively impacted their ability to fight the fire and to protect structures.

“I implore our citizens when we say evacuate, evacuate,” he said.

The South Coast AQMD has the Crescenta Valley air quality listed as moderate on its website; however, the Angeles National Forest is listed as unhealthy for sensitive groups as of Wednesday afternoon. Everyone should avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion; people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should remain indoors. Keep windows and doors closed or seek alternate shelter. Run your air conditioner if you have one and keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. Avoid using a swamp cooler or whole-house fan to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. To avoid worsening the health effects of wildfire smoke, don’t use indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances, including fireplaces.

As of Wednesday, Metrolink determined that Antelope Valley train service will operate between Los Angeles and Via Princessa only. A bus bridge will be provided to and from Vincent Grade/Acton, Palmdale and Lancaster stations.

Metrolink, in coordination with first responders at the scene, has determined that, due to the fluid conditions of the fire adjacent to the railroad tracks in Santa Clarita, Metrolink cannot operate trains along the entire Antelope Valley Line.

Additionally, Antelope Valley Line trains 215, 218, 282 and 285 will be cancelled. Bus service will not be offered to connect to those trains. All other trains are expected to operate between Los Angeles Union Station and Via Princessa, with buses taking passengers to and from stations north of Via Princessa. Please note the trains will not wait for the buses, passengers will need to board the next available train.

For more information on what routes are available via Metrolink go to