Information posted on social media helped lead law enforcement officers to Eric Wamser, 57, of Foresthill, CA.He was arrested Friday afternoon, booked into the Placer County jail in Auburn and charged with interfering with firefighting operations, Penal Code Section 148.2. [This is a misdemeanor]
Wamser’s alleged actions delayed aerial firefighting on a fire burning in the steep canyon along the Middle Fork of the American River near Todd Valley. The Trailhead Fire started June 28 and is now 98 percent contained. It burned more than 5,600 acres and forced hundreds of residents of Placer and El Dorado counties to evacuate. Wamser allegedly flew his hobby drone over the fire during the evening of June 28 to take video and photos.
“The Trailhead Fire was burning in such a remote area that our aircraft were critical to stopping the fire,” said Chief George Morris III, CAL FIRE’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit chief. “Every minute we couldn’t fly our aircraft because of this drone, the fire was able to grow and do more damage.”
Eric Wamser holds the distinction of being the first guy caught in California for interfering with aerial firefighting operations. The good news is that he is going to get off easier than the next people. Apparently he had posted the footage on social media which is how the authorities found him.
The local NBC affiliate, KCRA 3 stopped by Wamser’s home:
He didn’t want to appear on camera. He did want to go on the record to say that he’s embarrassed about the mistake he made that night.
Wamser claims he wanted to see how close the flames were, so he sent the drone up directly over his home for about two minutes.