BC Wildfire Service warns people not to fly drones around wildfires

Jul 25 2018, 6:40 pm

With wildfire season heating up in BC, officials are reminding the public not to fly a drone anywhere near an active wildfire.

The warning comes after BC Wildfire Service (BCWFS) staff were forced to temporarily halt air operations on a wildfire in the province’s southern interior this past Sunday, due to what they said were people operating drones above the fire.

The incident resulted in a helicopter having to be grounded, and additional firefighting aircraft working on other fires in the area had to be diverted from their flight paths to avoid the airspace around Little Wilson Lake – about 19 kilometres east of Nakusp area.

The airspace has since been cleared for firefighting aircraft and the RCMP, along with the BCWFS are investigating the incident.

In response, officials are reminding the public that the use of drones near a wildfire is in fact, illegal. The restricted airspace includes a radius of five nautical miles around the fire, and to an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level.

“The presence of drones near an active wildfire can slow down, or completely shut down, aerial firefighting efforts, due to safety concerns,” said BCWFS in a release. “If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft, the consequences could be deadly.”

Under federal regulations, anyone caught operating a drone within an active wildfire could be fined $25,000, or jailed for up to 18 months.

The use of UAVs or drones near or on a wildfire is also considered to be “interference,” as defined in Section 56 of the provincial Wildfire Act. Operators are subject to a violation ticket fine of $1,150. If convicted, the operator could be fined up to $100,000 and/or face imprisonment of over a year.

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