Firefighters are fuming about drones over wildfires

Written by

The latest incident took place yesterday during the fight to contain a wildfire burning in Yucaipa, on the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Cal Fire’s Debbie Chapman says air tankers were grounded for about 10 minutes after a drone was spotted flying over the fire.tanker-plane

“It’s important for the public to be aware that drones can have hamper fire suppression efforts, and it needs to be taken seriously,” Chapman said.

Yesterday’s quick interruption was not a major hindrance to firefighters – but it was different story during the huge Lake Fire last month, also in the San Bernardino National Forest. In that case, several aircraft were grounded, and fire officials said that allowed the blaze to grow and put homes at risk. That fire is still smoldering, nearly a month after it started.

It’s currently a misdemeanor to interfere with firefighters in California. Two state lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would increase fines and impose jail time on anyone whose drone gets in the way of firefighting operations.

Cal Fire Deputy Director Dave Teter supports that idea:ocfirechopper

“While (flights) are suspended, the fires have and will continue to grow, they will become more difficult and more challenging to suppress,” Teter said. “They will become larger, potentially more damaging and most certainly, more costly to fight.”

As of this morning, the fire in Yucaipa was 25 percent contained. Several homes have been evacuated and a portion of Highway 38 has been closed because of the blaze.