Air attacks on the Terwilliger Fire burning east and west of the Cougar Reservoir were suspended Sunday after an unmanned aircraft system, or “drone”, was detected over the fire, violating a temporary flight restriction.
The Willamette National Forest announced that helicopters were immediately grounded when the drone flew into the area, posing a risk to firefighters in the air and on the ground. Helicopters were being used for water drops on spot fires along the fire’s perimeter.
The Forest Service has issued statements reminding the public that “if you fly, we can’t.” The fine for operating in the temporary flight restriction area is up to $27,500. Officials add were medical attention necessary, the drone would have kept medical choppers from transporting patients as well.
While small, drones can collide against an aircraft’s windshield, engines, or other vulnerable areas that can endanger lives both in the air and on the ground. Winds or mechanical failure can also send a drone hurtling to the ground, possibly threatening lives or property.
In addition to flight restrictions, the Willamette National Forest has implemented a forest-wide campfire ban, which includes all campgrounds and wilderness areas.
As of Monday morning the Terwilliger fire had burned 5,398 acres and was 2 percent contained. It was reported on August 19th. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
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