Some firefighters are about to be in hot water. At least they should be. If the right fire department steps up and takes responsibility for spraying a man’s drone with water.
The incident took place earlier this month in Montgomery in upstate New York when John Thompson, a former firefighter, stopped at a fire at a large building. As firefighters from various local departments attempted to put out the fire, a local news crew and Thompson both got to work recording video of the towering clouds of smoke rising from the flames.
The only differences between Thompson and the news crew? Only Thompson was recording the scene using his the camera mounted to his remote-controlled quadcopter.
And only Thompson had his camera sprayed with the power hose by a firefighter on the scene.
“It was very unprofessional on their part, spraying water at a drone while the fire is still burning inside the house,” Thompson told PINAC. “It was a structure fire on a home, people lost everything. I believe every bit of that water should have been used on the fire, not on trying to shoot a drone out of the sky.”
Thompson posted the video he recorded on Facebook and with the following message (edited for spelling):
“Stopped at a structure fire in Coldenham fire district and 13 min in to shooting the video the fire company tryed to blow my drone out of the sky with the fire hose for filming the fire,” wrote Thompson on Facebook. “This is real misconduct on their part and very unprofessional. My second take off the camera did not record so it looks like they destroyed a $2,200.00 drone. Thanks guys for the nice job you’re doing for the community. I have you all on video so if I have to get it paid for look for the bill thank you and if you all agree with me please comment. The news was there filming why not me!”
He was immediately met with criticism from Facebook commenters who proved they were clueless when it came to the law regarding the right to record as you can see from a few screenshots below.
In Thompson’s video, posted below, you can clearly see a large hose being directed away from the fire and sprayed directly at his camera beginning at the 12:00 mark.
Apparently, a few firefighters thought destroying property was more important than putting out the fire on a burning building. Like the man who blasted a drone out of the sky with a shotgun last October, the firefighters responsible for destroying Thompson’s drone can be brought up on criminal charges, and Thompson will have certainly have a case against the fire department for destruction of property and potentially for infringing on his First Amendment right to record.
“I had no idea they sprayed it intentionally. If it was accidental it would be one thing, but this wasn’t accidental, it was on purpose,” said Thompson “It’s a horrible thing actually. Even my police department said I should call and complain, and I’m probably going to take them to small claims court”
The ironic thing here? Thompson’s intention was to share the video on the fire department’s Facebook page.
“I used to put pictures on the ground on fireman’s pages on Facebook,” said Thompson. “I had just gotten this drone, and it was my first structure fire, and I wanted to put it on the fireman’s page so everyone could see it, and this is what happened. I had a right to be there, like anybody else…I hope nobody else gets shot out of the sky.”
PINAC has been informed that there were several New York fire departments at the scene, including Coldenham and Montgomery, but others who are listed on this page, many whom we’ve contacted, but have either refused to talk to us or have directed us to a man named Justin Rodriguez, who apparently is the media spokesman for Orange County, having just accepted the job this year after working as a local journalist.
But Rodriguez has not returned our calls.
Rodriguez, who maintained a very active Twitter account as a sports reporter for the Times-Herald Record, switched his Twitter username to @justinrodocgovt as well as his Twitter bio to “Assistant to Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus for Communications and Media Relations, after announcing his job change on May 1, 2015.
He then spent the next few weeks tweeting out flak-related information about the county. But his last tweet was May 31 and the incident in question took place on June 4.
UPDATE: Moments after we published this report, Rodriguez returned our call, telling us the matter is “under investigation” by the Montgomery Township Police. We have reached out to them and will update this report when he receive a response.
Felipe Hemming contributed to this report.