When working to stop a wildfire, time is of the essence. Firefighters have minutes to hold back a blaze, and any disruptions can cost property and lives.
During the recent Trailhead Fire, firefighting operations were disrupted by a hobby drone flown above the fire to take personal videos and photos. The drone operator was arrested for allegedly interfering with the firefighting efforts in that area.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), there has been a surge in hobby drones interfering with firefighting efforts over the last two years. Cal Fire recently launched its “If You Fly, We Can’t!” campaign, asking the public to never fly drones near wildfires.
“When a hobby drone flies in the path of our aircraft, we have no choice but to pull back our airtankers and helicopters until the drone is removed,” said Cal Fire Chief Dave Teter, deputy director of fire protection.
Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as planes and helicopters, fly at very low altitudes to drop fire retardant and water onto the fire. If a drone flies in the same air space, fire officials have to pull back the aircraft to avoid midair collisions.
To report irresponsible drone operators flying their drones close to disasters and emergencies, call 1-844-DRONE11 (1-844-376-6311). For more information, visit the Cal Fire website at www.fire.ca.gov.