Fire Managers: Keep Drones Away From Wildfires

Aug 15, 2014

Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Those who oversee the government’s aerial firefighting operations are asking the public to keep drones away from wildfires. Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise say there have been three instances this year in which drones interfered with aerial firefighting.

One of the incidents occurred in early June over the Two Bulls Fire in Oregon. Another was on the Carlton Complex Fire in north central Washington in July. And officials say the third - in northern California - recently forced firefighters to shut down their aerial attack for a period of time.

Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris says people sometimes use drones to capture video or pictures of fires. But he says there’s fear a drone could fly into the path of an air tanker, lead plane, or helicopter, or vice versa.

“Our pilots are not looking for them," Ferris says. "They’re so small there’s a chance they would never even see them until the collision occurs. Because often times these things aren’t any larger than maybe the size of a large bird.”

Ferris says the FAA implements temporary flight restrictions over fires to protect pilots and crews. Those who violate those restrictions could be charged with a crime.

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