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As Fires Rage Across U.S., Officials Contend With Drone Interference

An Airtanker dropping retardant on a California wildfire; a drone (inset).
Fireground/Fee-Technophile
/
Flickr.com
An Airtanker dropping retardant on a California wildfire; a drone (inset).

As fire fighting season continues, forest and aviation officials are calling on drone operators to keep their unmanned aerial systems grounded. KLCC’s Brian Bull has more.

An Airtanker dropping retardant on a California wildfire; a drone (inset).
Credit Fireground/Fee-Technophile / Flickr.com
/
Flickr.com
An Airtanker dropping retardant on a California wildfire; a drone (inset).

Among the many weapons fire fighters use, are Airtankers and choppers. But unauthorized drones over or near wildfires pose a collision hazard that can put pilots and crews at further risk.

A multi-agency poster warns of the dangers of unauthorized drone usage near wildfire sites.
A multi-agency poster warns of the dangers of unauthorized drone usage near wildfire sites.

Emily Veale of the Umpqua National Forest says there remains a temporary flight restriction issued by the Federal Aviation Administration over the South Umpqua Complex Fire area. She says the allure of dramatic aerial footage isn’t worth the risk to others.

“If we have to ground some of those aviation resources, putting people’s livelihoods and homes – and firefighter and public safety in jeopardy at that time, when we could be much more effective by not being grounded from a drone incursion.”

Veale says so far this year, there have been 16 incidents of drones being in the way of firefighting efforts, nationwide. She adds drone users can face up to $20,000 in civil penalties for shutting down fire operations.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Copyright 2018 KLCC

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.