Fire Chiefs in the US have issued a plea to fire enthusiasts to stop flying their drones anywhere near active fires or over the fire-ground.
When a drone operating over the fire zone, fire-fighting planes and helicopters are grounded or forced away from the fire as there are risks of a collision in the air.
Fire enthusiasts operate drones over live fire scenes in the hope of capturing some dramatic or spectacular video footage and according to fire chiefs, this practice has already caused many problems for fire-fighting operations in the US.
Tony Mecham, Fire Chief at California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, ‘Very simply put, if you fly, we cannot fly’.
Pic: (CBS in the Morning News)
Firefighting operations have been disrupted on four occasions in a week during the ingoing fire at Lightner Creek wildfire in Colorado and at a fire in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
One man who was operating a drone over an active fire was prosecuted in Arizona last week after two felony charges were made against him for ‘endangering air and ground firefighting crews by flying a drone over an active fire scene at the site of the ongoing Lightner Creek wildfire in Colorado, and twice in two weeks at a fire in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Arizona prosecutors last week filed two felony criminal charges against a man accused of ‘endangering air and ground firefighting crews’ by flying a drone over an active wildfire in Prescott National Forest.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, part of the US Bureau of Land Management the number of US firefighting operations that were disturbed by drones so this year risen to 17 so far. Fire Chiefs are warning drone users ‘Keep your drone off our fire zone’.
In 2016, during Utah’s massive Saddle fire, a drone prevented firefighting planes from taking off. According to Utah governor Gary Herbert, if the planes had been able to attack the fire from above, people would not have needed to be evacuated.
Officials in 2015 similarly blamed hobbyist drones for blocking their efforts to battle a California wildfire.