Drones a hazard to firefighting aircraft, officials say

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RAMONA, Calif. -- Drones are making aerial firefighting even more dangerous than it already is, according to Cal Fire firefighters stationed at the Ramona Airport.

So far this year, aerial operations have been suspended 14 different times due to drones flying over wildfires.

"It's tough to fly over a fire as it is, there's lots of turbulence bouncing you around, smoke and debris as you try to line up and drop fire retardant, you can't see a drone," said Cal Fire Batallion Chief John Francois.

According to Francois, drones can only be spotted by crews on the ground who immediately report them forcing a suspension of air operations.

This happened last Friday in San Bernardino County for 20 minutes until a drone was cleared out of the airspace.

"I'd hate to be the person who owns that drone who just took this valuable tool away so he could take pictures while his neighbor's house burned down or God forbid his neighbor lost his life just so he could get a video up on YouTube," said Francois.

A bill was just introduced in Sacramento that would make it illegal to fly a drone over a wildfire. If it becomes law, it will carry a $1000 fine.


1 Comment

  • David Williams

    Save firefighting pilots lives by upgrading firefighting aircraft to drones so they can continue to fight fires through dense smoke and night and airstrikes with flying objects likes birds. We can fire missiles from drones halfway around the world why cant we drop water from a drone in our own backyard?

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