Newspaper: Drones Pose Threat To Wildland Firefighters

By Henry Miller of the Statesman Herald (Gannett) in Oregon republished in the Durango Herald.

–SALEM, Ore. – Hobbyist drones have been involved in three wildfires, including an incident in Northern California that almost grounded aerial firefighting efforts, officials say.

“They were in the preparation process of getting ready to shut down aircraft,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “They actually located the drone and were able to mitigate the problem.”

The drone incident happened during the Sand Fire in late July about 35 miles northeast of Sacramento that destroyed 19 homes and caused the evacuation of 1,200 people.

The other two drone incidents were at the Two Bulls Fire near Bend, Oregon, in early June and the 391-square mile Carlton Complex fire in late July near Twisp, Washington, that destroyed 300 homes.

Drones and private manned aircraft are prohibited from flying over and near wildfires, and violations can lead to civil penalties and criminal prosecution by the Federal Aviation Administration, more….

Drones can and will play an increasing role in combating wildland fires.  I see a day when every fire crew strike team leader has a drone operator at his or her disposal. Drones can cut through smoke when fixed wing and rotary aircraft are grounded. Reconnaissance can never be overdone and drones work for a fraction of what it costs to man a contract chopper.  Drones have a place on the fire ground but only when in the hands of the fire managers.

Pebble Jan231 2014