SAN DIEGO–The popularity and availability of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones is creating serious concerns for firefighters. During the recent “North Fire” in San Bernardino, five drones flown by civilians forced the grounding of the entire aerial firefighting attack team.
Fully loaded air tankers sat idle for 25 minutes while the fire grew because officials had no way to contact the drones’ operators. The drones not only increased the fire’s destruction but also put pilots and firefighters in mortal danger.
“I cannot allow recreational drones to cripple one of our most valuable resources during a wildfire,” said Chairman Bill Horn. “This is a serious problem and we can send that message loud and clear through harsher punishments for drone operators who interfere with firefighting efforts.”
Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously joined in support of House of Representatives Bill 3025 and Senate Bill 167 to increase penalties for operators of unmanned aerial vehicles who get in the way of aerial firefighting efforts. Rogue drone users could face criminal prosecution, jail time and huge fines. They can also be held liable for any damages that result from their actions.
“I think drone technology has great potential to be used in exciting new ways,” said Chairman Horn. “But in the event of a wildfire, if you fly we can’t fly. It is time to make sure drones do not compromise the safety of firefighters or their efforts to protect lives and property.”
The State Legislature is expected to take action on the bill by the end of this session in mid September.