With the arrival of summer comes wildfire season, and with it, one of America's newest and worst traditions: folks flying drones through forest fires.
Drone usage in western Colorado last week forced firefighters to delay fighting what's being called the . The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reported that tankers and helicopters were grounded for at least an hour while resources were diverted towards the goose hunt of looking for a drone instead. Firefighters had no choice but to sit back and hope the fire wouldn't grow in the meantime.
When drones are flying above a fire, the airspace suddenly becomes crowded with devices that not only aren't helpful, but could fly into a plane. Even if the purpose isn't malicious, drones typically only have one camera. They could shatter the glass of an aerial firefighting plane without even realizing it.
"[It's] not a distraction anybody needs—whether they're on the ground or in the air," says Steve Hall, communications director of the state's BLM office, to .
Losing an hour in firefighting isn't just a matter of making up for lost time. A fire is a dynamic event which is constantly shifting and growing. Lost time might mean that the perfect moment for dousing the flames is lost.
"It could be five, 10 fewer tanker drops, bucket drops and that can make a huge difference in a wildfire," says Hall.
Drones entering forest fires has been a recurring problem for a couple years now, going back at least to 2016. The Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for drones over areas facing wildfire, these restrictions can't always be implemented fast enough. According to the U.S Forest Service, at least 11 firefighting efforts were interrupted last year as the result of drone interference.has tried to put in place
People flying drones over fires are notoriously difficult to catch, given how they are likely at a remote area. Back in 2016, the first ever drone fire-related arrest was made in California when the perpetrator put footage of the fire on social media. Officials will surely be paying close attention to anything that comes out about the fire in the next few weeks.