US Forest Service Asks The Public To Stop Flying Drones Over Wildfires

EUREKA – Fire agencies have been having issues with drones flying near incidents in the fire airspace.

On Saturday an unmanned aircraft, often referred to as a drone, was detected operating over the Clear fire, just 7 miles southwest of Happy Camp in the Klamath National Forest, the US Forest Service wants to let the public know that drones are not allowed to be flown near forest fires to ensure the safety of the firefighters and the effectiveness of wildfire suppression operations. Aerial firefighting aircrafts, such as air tankers and helicopters, fly at low altitudes, the same altitude used by drones, creating the potential for mid-air collisions.

Henry Wotherspoon owns FlyBy which specializes in drones, the Fortuna resident says those going out to fly their drones need to be aware of what is going in the airspace before they fly

“With the industry growing so fast there’s more people getting in the air and a lot of them don’t have the know-how to fly safe in the local area, so in order for people to be safe flyers and get out there and have fun without endangering others they can spend a little bit of time online researching what regulations are out there at the moment,” says Wotherspoon.

Wotherspoon says he relies on the app called B4UFly, created by the FAA for drone users, it lets them check on the airspace they’re planning on flying in before they go out, so they are able to see if it is a safe place to fly their drone.

In 20-16 there where over 20 documented occasions where drone flying caused aerial firefighting to be temporarily shut down… allowing wildfires to grow larger. The u-s forest service asks that everyone flying a drone be aware of which areas under a temporary flight restriction before they fly.

“It shows you airports in your area so it’ll tell you if you’re within the 5 mile radius, the no-fly zone of airports. Sometimes it’ll even tell you if you’re close to wildfire stuff and just give you that know-how to know if you should be flying or if you should not,” says Wotherspoon.

Those flying their drones in temporary flight restricted areas could face civil penalties, including up to twenty-seven-thousand-dollars in fines, and potential criminal prosecution.

For those who are interested in drones and would like to know more information Wotherspoon says to check out his facebook page