As firefighters struggle to put out monstrous California wildfires across the state, global warming and the ongoing historic drought have been blamed for the fires’ mass spreading and stagnant flames but that’s not the only thing keeping the fires running wild.
Drones are getting in the way of firefighters’ efforts in putting out the raging fires. Firefighters have had to continuously ground fire-retardant aircraft to avoid colliding with drones that were flying over the fire as well.
Because of the delayed efforts and perilous interference, officials have proposed a $75,000 reward for those who catch these drone operators. State lawmakers have even proposed bills that would make flying over a fire a misdemeanor with an up to $2,000 fine and possibly serving up to six months in jail, and U.S. Rep. Paul Cook went as far as to introduce legislation that would make flying a drone over federal land a federal offense with up to five years jail time along with a fine. San Diego County supervisors voted unanimously in support of the legislation.
“Seconds count when it comes to fighting a fire. And any interference in getting those fires out… those irresponsible individuals should be penalized,” San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.
Another pending bill would grant immunity to emergency responders who damage drones during firefighting operations.
All drones need to cease flying around area of 7400 Linda Vista. You are interfering with fire operations. pic.twitter.com/CsjUvhq9EY— SDFD (@SDFD) August 5, 2015
Drones have significantly impeded efforts in battling the blaze. In June, efforts to put out the North Fire in San Bernadino County were stalled when five drones were buzzing overhead. Due to the chaos, the fire then jumped over Interstate 15, eating 20 vehicles in its path.
Another drone shut down firefighting operations for the Rocky Fire in Northern California, subsequently burning an additional 3.5 miles.
“Low-flying air tankers cannot share the sky with drones because the small aircraft can be sucked into jet engines, causing the engines to fail and the planes to crash,” said the San Bernadino County Commissioners.
While California’s chronic drought has created the dry, dusty conditions for the wildfires to spread at a faster rate, drones and their careless users have made the firefighters’ battle a much longer, harder one.
Drones have proven to be more of a frequent nuisance bound for destruction rather than a useful technology as more and more individuals use the aircraft for evil as opposed to good.