Keeping the skies clear for firefighting operations
In recent years, drone popularity has surged tremendously. Yet, as these flying devices gain traction, they've presented new challenges, especially around firefighting zones. CalFire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is sounding the alarm and asking the public to exercise caution.
In an announcement on Friday, CalFire officials urgently reminded the public about the dangers and consequences of flying drones in areas where Firefighters are operating. Six interruptions to critical aerial firefighting operations this year have been attributed to drones. To put this into perspective, 2021 had five such suspensions, making it a growing issue with 19 interruptions since 2019.
According to the CalFire statement, “The FAA regularly implements Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) around Wildfire areas to protect the safety of aircraft participating in firefighting operations.”
The clear directive is that no aircraft, including drones, should enter these zones unless they're associated with firefighting efforts.
Jake Sjolund, staff chief for Tactical Air Operations, didn't mince his words. He emphasized, “The danger of flying drones near wildfires cannot be overstated. Such actions jeopardize lives and have immediate consequences for firefighting agencies' response efforts.”
The repercussions of drones flying near wildfires are immediate and dangerous. Fire response agencies are forced to ground their aircraft, posing significant threats to the safety of firefighters on the ground and nearby communities.
This grounding can cause fires to spread, escalating the risks further. Violators aren't just getting a slap on the wrist. They can face civil penalties of up to $20,000 and potential criminal prosecution.
In short, while drones offer many benefits in various applications, they can pose significant risks in emergency situations. CalFire urges drone enthusiasts to be responsible, think twice, and always prioritize safety over capturing a snapshot.
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