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


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.

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.

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.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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