Firefighters: Tackling Drones Can't Be Added Responsibility

Aug 30, 2018

Forest officials say nationwide, at least 19 incidents involving drones and fire-fighting aircraft have happened this year. And they’re rebuking suggestions fire crews simply shoot them down.

Like drones, firefighting aircraft fly at low altitudes creating a high probability of collisions.
Credit U.S. Forest Service / USDA

“We don’t even want to consider that," says Nick Mickel, a PIO assigned to the Terwilliger Fire. "That’s not an option that’s in our toolbox.”

Last Sunday (8/26) a drone grounded water drops for helicopters, when it flew into restricted air space at the Terwilliger Fire site.  Online comments on articles about the incident include suggestions that fire crews  shoot down the drones.

A poster warns UAS operators against flying at the site of wildfires.
Credit Province of British Columbia / Flickr.com

Mickel says all personnel are committed to fire suppression and don’t have time to chase down the small aircraft that are being flown by violators in the first place.  

“But if we can, we will arrest them and pursue it in court if we can ever find them, but it’s very challenging to find those operators of the drones after the fact.”

Fines for operating drones in restricted airspace can exceed $27,000.

Drones pose a threat as they can shatter an aircraft's windshield or damage engines or rotors.

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