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Drone halts helicopter response to fire

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A structure fire on Pioneer Road Monday spread to a quarter-acre of nearby vegetation before crews got it stopped
A helicopter drops a bucket on a house fire off of Pioneer Road Monday evening. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
A helicopter zeroes in on a house burning off Pioneer Road Monday evening. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Fire crews descend on a structure fire that spread to wildlands Monday evening off Pioneer Road. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

A helicopter was forced from the air in the middle of a firefight Monday when a drone appeared over a fire burning on Pioneer Road.

Jackson County Fire District No. 5 and the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District responded at about 5 p.m. Monday to a structure fire that spread into nearby wildlands on the 5300 block of Pioneer Road in Medford, west of Phoenix.

A black plume of smoke was visible from downtown Medford as numerous engines responded, and firefighters were actively engaged on the ground as a type 3 helicopter dropped buckets of water from the sky.

At about 6 p.m., a drone was spotted over the fire, which forced the helicopters to vacate the area, according to ODF.

“A drone has been spotted flying above the fire. As a result, our helicopters are forced to land,” ODF Southwest District wrote on its Facebook page.

At 6:45 p.m., ODF reported that the wildland fire portion of the incident had been stopped and firefighters were mopping up the quarter-acre that was affected.

Structural firefighters remained engaged on the structure portion of the blaze.

The cause of the fire will be under investigation, ODF reported.

Reach Mail Tribune Editor-in-Chief David Smigelski at 541-776-4484 or dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com.