Please Don't Fly Your Drone Near a Forest Fire

Members of a Montana fire crew view the Goodwin Fire in the Prescott area. | InciWeb

Fire crews had to halt aerial efforts to contain the Prescott-area Goodwin Fire this week because a drone was spotted in the area — the second such incident since the fire broke out last month.

As The Arizona Republic reported, the drone was sighted Tuesday morning, requiring a helicopter that was operating at the time to be grounded for two hours.

An earlier incident, also reported by The Republic, led to the arrest of a 54-year-old Prescott Valley man believed to be flying a drone near the blaze. In that incident, the drone was in the same airspace as 14 firefighting aircraft, officials said.

Look, folks, we get it. Drones are fun. And they can produce some amazing photos, too — just look at the third-place winner in our most recent photo contest. But wildfires are no-fly zones. Take it from the National Interagency Fire Center:

All authorized aircraft on an incident maintain radio communication with each other to safely coordinate their missions, but aerial firefighting flight crews have no way to communicate with drone operators. Aerial firefighting aircraft have no way to detect drones other than by seeing them, and visual detection is nearly impossible due to the small size of most drones. These factors make a mid-air collision with an unauthorized drone a distinct possibility.

That site also notes that it's against federal law to interfere with firefighting efforts. Causing aircraft to be grounded because you're looking for a cool photo or video of a forest fire would certainly fit that definition. So don't do it — both for fire crews' safety and to avoid being arrested.

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