Fire Hazard

Are drones capable of starting a wildfire? Not that I’m aware of but they obviously can get in the way of people who are fighting wildfires. It would seem like common sense to not fly one over a wildfire when aircraft are monitoring or trying to put out a fire but I guess common isn’t as common as I thought.

According to a Minnesota DNR Press Release someone was operating a drone during a wildfire near Ostego, MN last week.

DNR firefighters need cooperation from drone operators

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources requests that operators of unmanned aircraft (drones) stay at least 5 miles away from wildfires to create a safe environment for firefighting aircraft and crew.

The DNR uses helicopters and airplanes to detect wildfires and to deliver water, retardant, firefighters and cargo. These aircraft face a demanding environment with hazards such as power lines, trees, towers, smoke and wind.

“Conditions for our pilots are tough enough,” said Bill Schuster, DNR wildfire aviation supervisor. “We don’t want to worry about when and where a drone could pop up into their flight path.”

Aircraft and crew are strategically located around Minnesota to quickly respond to wildfires. One or more aircraft may be dispatched to any wildfire in the state within minutes of its start, depending on what is threatened by the fire.

Over 99 percent of wildfires that occur in Minnesota are small, quick-moving and wind-driven, and these do most of their damage within the first few hours after igniting. With the increasing overlap between wild lands and urban areas in Minnesota, firefighters need to be aggressive and safe when putting out wildfires.

“While crews were fighting a wildfire near Ostego last week, a drone was flying nearby at the same time firefighting aircraft were conducting operations,” said Shuster. “Voluntary cooperation to not operate drones within 5 miles of wildfires would allow firefighters to do their job safely, efficiently and effectively.”

Visit www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/wildfire_update.html for wildfire updates in Minnesota.

The Federal Aviation Administration has partnered with several industry associations to promote “Know Before You Fly,” a campaign to educate the public about using unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly. Visit www.knowbeforeyoufly.org to learn more about this program.

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