Remember when drones were something out of an outer space TV show? Well, today drones have taken on an entirely different meaning. Doesn’t the word “drone” sound like something out of an outer space movie or at the least something cute and cuddly that you can curl up with when you’re going to sleep? Well, in today’s world, the word “drone” takes on an entirely different meaning so read this report from Congressman Cook. It probably will startle you (as it did me). This is important information!
Today, Congressman Paul Cook (who serves the mountain communities as well as several other areas) he has authored as bill that would help protect firefighters and civilians during wildfires.
Here is the recent report from Congressman Cook:
“Over the last six weeks, the Inland Empire has faced a series of wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres of land. Thanks to the heroism and hard work of our firefighters and other emergency responders, no lives were lost during these blazes, and property damage was minimized to the lowest extent possible. A key part of that effort was the use of low-flying aerial tankers which were used to extinguish fires by dropping fire-retardant. Unfortunately, efforts to extinguish not one, not two, but three fires were hampered when hobby drone operators flew their drones into the airspace over these fires.
Last week, due to drones in the area over the North Fire, firefighting aircraft were grounded for 25 crucial minutes while the fire jumped the I-15. A week before that, firefighters battling the Mill 2 Fire near Yucaipa saw their aircraft grounded due to unauthorized drone use above the fire. Most significantly, the Lake Fire, which ultimately burned over 30,000 acres, saw the fire expand significantly following the grounding of firefighting aircraft…..once again due to a drone.
These three fires are only the beginning of a disturbing trend: As drones become more common and more popular with the public, this problem will grow if we do not take action. Unauthorized drones are a serious danger to firefighting aircraft. During fires, tankers must fly at the low altitudes often used by hobby drone operators. Commercial aircraft have been taken down by hitting something as small as a bird. Therefore, an impact with a hobby drone could easily bring down a firefighting aircraft. This forces fire crews to ground the aircraft, placing the lives of both firefighters and civilians at rick.
It’s a crime to block the movement of emergency vehicles on roadways. It’s illegal to uncap fire hydrants or puncture fire hoses. No one would stand in the doorway of a burning building while firefighters were trying to enter so why should it be acceptable to interfere with air-born efforts against wildfires?
Part of this problem is ignorance. Too many people fail to recognize the danger drones create and, unfortunately, current law does little to address this problem. Under current law, civil penalties might be leveled against a drone operator for violating a “temporary flight restriction,” but there is no criminal penalty. This must change, and it must change quickly.
“I’ve introduced House Resolution (HR) 3025, the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act, which would make it a crime to launch a drone near a wildfire on federal land if the drone interferes with firefighting efforts,” said the Congressman.