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 said there have been three instances this year in which drones interfered with aerial firefighting.
One of these incidents occurred in early June over the Two Bulls fire near Bend, Ore. Another was on the Carlton Complex fire in north central Washington in July. Officials said the third incident recently forced firefighters to shut down their aerial attack for a period of time in northern California.
Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris said people sometimes use drones to capture video or pictures of fires. He said there’s fear that a drone could fly into the path of an air tanker, lead plane, helicopter or vice versa.
“Our pilots are not looking for them,” Ferris said. “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 said the FAA implements temporary flight restrictions over fires to protect pilots and crews. He added that those who violate these restrictions could be charged with a crime.
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