Otherworldly Drone Video Shows Postal Worker Delivering Mail to Neighborhood Devastated by Wildfire

The recent wildfires in California have destroyed homes and fundamentally altered the lives of many people. Nonetheless, the United States Postal Service continued to deliver the mail even as smoke still hung over a neighborhood, and an aerial cinematographer captured the surreal scene.

Note: Thron is a certified drone pilot and captured this footage before a TFR was issued for the area. Otherwise, it is generally illegal to fly in wildfire areas, as doing so can interfere with firefighting operations. A TFR is now in effect for the area; please do not attempt to replicate such footage.

Douglas Thron is a freelance cinematographer in California. After the recent wildfires, he headed to the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa to get drone footage of the aftermath for "The Today Show," when he noticed that despite many of the homes being wiped from the landscape, a mail carrier was still delivering. While the scene seems bizarre and illogical, the post office did respond, saying that several customers were being allowed back into the area to retrieve their belongings and had requested that any mail be left in their boxes so they could retrieve it, as they were not able to come to the post office annex, a request that the carrier for that route agreed to honor. It's a bizarre example of reality being stranger than fiction. If you'd like to help those who have been affected by the wildfires, this article has a guide to all the ways you can assist.

[via Gizmodo]

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Very sadly impressive. Looks like a
post-apocalyptic movie. Actually it just looks like "the postman" with Kevin Costner (cool movie by the way).

that watermark gave me cancer

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Wow. That really helps put things into perspective

Hans Rosemond's picture

It’s amazing how just across the street some houses were untouched. Nature is a beast.


Alex Cooke's picture

He was filming the aftermath. They wouldn't allow a mail carrier in there if it was still an active area.

Incorrect. That neighborhood might be clear for now, but the fires are still burning nearby and the entire area is under a Temporary Flight Restriction. No one is allowed to fly there and doing so directly endangers fire crews and WILL stop fire fighting aircraft from entering the area.

William Howell's picture

If you are below 50 feet its ok right?

Not for TFRs. TFRs are generally from the surface to a certain altitude. You can check the FAA's graphical TFR page to find the specifics for the one you're interested in. http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr_map_ims/html/index.html

I believe the 50ft figure is for exemptions the FAA gives out to certified pilots who wish to seek permission to operate within 1 mile of a towered airport.

From a practical perspective, firefighting aircraft frequently descend below 50ft in these areas for water drops, fire recon, refilling from small bodies of water, or approaches to any of these. If they receive reports of ANY drone activity in the area, they will stop flying until they can confirm the area is safe. There is so little margin of error in low-level flight that any aerial obstruction is a huge danger. Please don't take any chances with this stuff. It's NEVER worth flying drones inside an active TFR or near an airport.

William Howell's picture

That makes total sense, good point!

Photography sites need to stop giving clicks to reckless drone pilots like this. It's not enough to say "was this a bad idea? Watch the video to find out!" This is the shit that will get drones banned.

Responsible drone pilots: take an hour to familiarize yourself with the national airspace system. skyvector.com is a great resources for checking out the area you want to fly. You can find out whether you're flying too close to an airport or whether there are any TFRs in your area. It may be easier to cheat, but they've gotten pretty good at catching people who violate these rules and that can mean big fines and even jail time, regardless of whether you knew the rules or not.

That is not true. The whole area is under flight restriction. Please please please stop promoting this stuff. This is not about this video being a cool visual (it is). But, many of us drone pilots fly responsibly and each one of these stories inches us closer and closer to a blanket ban on drones.
As a photography blog, you have a responsibility to promote safe droning. Hell, you could even turn it into "our stance is to not promote illegal droning" and gain more overall clicks/ad revenue than one story does. People eat up activism.

Alex Cooke's picture

It is true. I literally just spoke directly to him and he is not only a Part 133 pilot, he holds a seaplane license as well. He got his footage before the TFR was issued and heavily emphasized his respect for aviation law. On the same token, I’ve never once featured illegal drone footage and as an editor of this site, have forbidden such footage from being featured and written several articles on the importance of drone safety and regulation. I promise you we take a serious stance on professionalism at Fstoppers.

Interesting since the flight restriction went into effect soon after ignition, but nonetheless. Maybe consider a preface to these kinds of articles quickly noting that the pilot had permission (since it's illegal to fly there unlicensed) to discourage those unfamiliar with how these things work and might wish to gather their own content illegally? Just a friendly suggestion.

Alex Cooke's picture

That’s a great idea; I’ll add it now. Thank you!

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night (or fire aftermath) stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Rex Larsen's picture

Very unusual, dramatic, moving and incomplete. Oddly somewhere between story telling and marketing. No tight shot of driver, mailbox or mail.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

When does an area stop being a wildfire site? When the fire’s out?

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

TBQH, had the postman not showed, a resident waiting on a package from Amazon would probably be cursing how worthless and unreliable the USPS is.