Previously reported by CBS8 in San Diego, a minor vegetation fire ignited on August 1 along the I-15, south of Deer Springs Road in Southern California. Firefighting air operations had to be temporarily suspended due to a drone flying in the area.
“It might be good to get that video and that content for social media, but it’s hazardous, and it’s illegal, so we ask that you don’t do that,” said Fire Captain Michael Cornette with Cal Fire San Diego. “The airplanes and the tankers, they can fly down as low as 150 feet when they’re dropping their water and retardant, and that’s about the height the hobbyists like to fly at.”
Upon detecting a drone near a fire, Cal Fire and other responding agencies are required to ground all aircraft, suspending their aerial firefighting efforts immediately.
Cornette explained that helicopters and aircraft are most effective during the initial stages of a fire when they can help contain and control it. This enables ground firefighters to establish containment lines and deploy hoses.
“Firefighters arrived on the scene, they noticed the drone, and they halted the air assault until that drone could get out of the way, and then we could resume with our helicopters and air tankers,” said Cornette.
In 2018, the FAA Reauthorization Act’s Section 382 was incorporated into the legal framework as 18 USC § 40A, establishing the act of flying unmanned aircraft over wildfires as a federal offense. Deliberately or recklessly disrupting wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response endeavors connected to wildfire control through the operation of unmanned aircraft can result in penalties, including fines and imprisonment for a maximum period of two years, as stipulated under this statute.
Post Image- Firefighting aircraft battles a wildfire. Date/location unknown. (Image Credit: envatoelements by ChrisFloresFoto)