Firefighters, across the U.S., have been busy this summer. As of August 2nd, 2018, 107 active fires are affecting 1,439,917 acres of land in the United States. So far this year, there have been 38,079 fires. While some communities have had success using drones to help combat fires, others public safety teams have been obstructed by drones. Drones can get in the way of firefighting efforts and hinder helicopter units from doing their job.
Whenever a helicopter pilot makes visual contact with a drone or is told that one is in the area, the helicopter pilot must ground his mission or maneuver to avoid a collision with the drone. Having a drone flying near manned aircrafts stop firefighting rescue operations and puts lives at risk. Drones preventing firefighters from doing their job has become a more significant problem for public safety officials over the past few years as popularity in drones has risen.
This week, a drone nearly crashed into a helicopter over a fire in Idaho. Three firefighters were inside the helicopter when the pilot noticed the drone flying several feet away. The pilot was able to make an evasive maneuver and avoid a mid-air collision. All aircrafts being used to fight the fire were grounded for 90 minutes. Last week on July 23, 2018, firefighting crews had to ground flights at another site in Idaho because a drone had been spotted flying too close to a rescue aircraft.
U.S. Forest services have been asking drone pilots to stay clear of forest fires for the past couple of years. It is really simple: Don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire. Even a tiny drone can cause a serious or fatal accident it collides with a firefighting aircraft. The FAA has a dedicated page warning of the dangers of flying a drone over wildfires and laying down the laws against it - Drones and Wildfires don’t mix!