The norwegian town of Laerdalsoyri (Lærdalsøyri) suffered a major fire last night, with high winds driving the flames from building to building. The town is historic, with architecturally significant buildings dating back to the medieval and Viking periods. One of the more famous buildings is the Borgund Stave Church, built around 1180. Like most of the buildings in the town, this church is constructed almost entirely of wood. Because of the church and other ancient buildings, the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to Norwegian press reports, 100 people were taken to hospitals as a result of last night's fire, and around 50 remain in hospital this morning, but there are no reported deaths. Most of the injured were people who remained behind during the evacuation, and attempted to fight the fire with hand tools alongside emergency workers. Most of the injuries are related to smoke inhalation.
Around 30 buildings, at least one of them historically significant, have been lost.
As farmers and firefighters attempted to fight the fire on the ground with hand equipment, a frustrated Police Spokesman, Neils Eggen, demanded that whoever was operating the camera drones "get them out of there."
A historic town is burning, lives are in danger, firefighters are in harms way, and their helicopter backup can't get there because the media's there in spirit shooting misery porn from drones. The last thing this situation needs is the added misery of a helicopter crash because some media company's camera drone got sucked into the firefighter's rotor.
This technology presents massive ethical, legal, and regulatory issues. I hope this situation sparks a conversation about drones. A real one. A conversation that is about more than just the man using the drones. A conversation that isn't relegated to 140 characters of nuance on twitter.
We need to talk about what can happen here. We need to talk about firefighters in this country being denied air support because the choppers are being blocked by CNN's cameras. We need to talk about what happens when infrared cameras in the air can see through our windows and into our back yards. We need to talk about what happens when some idiot cop posts footage of people having sex in infrared on youtube. We need to talk about what happens when some foolish TV producer or police captain orders his drones into the sky during bad weather and you end up with four rotors and a handycam crashing through your ceiling and into your living room.
Instead, we're having a conversation about Barack Obama.
And this story is way, way bigger than even he is.
The BBC report of the fire is here.