Drone Grounds Water Drops on California Wildfire

When the winds shifted in the San Bernardino National Forest and pushed flames toward dry, unburned fuel Wednesday, firefighters had to temporarily abandon their air attack because someone was flying a drone nearby, reports The Los Angeles Times.


The drone was spotted near Onyx Summit about 6 p.m. and forced the grounding of aircraft on water-dropping missions for the 20,875-acre Lake fire, the U.S. Forest Service said Thursday.

“Tonight a hobby drone grounded firefighting aircraft by flying over the #LakeFire,” tweeted a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “When you fly…we CAN’T! Puts our pilots lives at risk.”

As unmanned aerial system technology has become more prevalent, so have run-ins between civilians using it and government agencies that consider it a hindrance. The U.S. Forest Service issued a statement on civilian drone use last year, warning they could interfere with firefighters’ efforts in the air.

In July 2014, CalFire crews had law enforcement confront a drone operator near Plymouth in Northern California after he flew the aircraft near a 3,800-acre blaze as crews made water drops.

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