Hobby Drones Derailed Firefighters' Attempt to Put Out a Wildfire

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Drought-stricken California has seen a wildfire rage on this week, but when planes carrying flame retardant attempted to contain the fire Wednesday, someone’s hobby drone hovering over the scene got in the way.


Fearing a collision, the planes turned back, the fire got worse, and the failed mission cost some $15,000, the LA Times reported.

The first civilian drone that was spotted was reportedly four-feet wide and was buzzing near the planes’ planned airdrop zone. One plane carrying 10,800 gallons of retardant turned back, along with two smaller planes. The flame retardant was tossed at the Nevada border.

A second personal drone was spotted when the planes headed back to base—that drone was apparently flying at 1,200 feet, way above the Federal Aviation Administration’s 400-foot limit. The Bureau of Land Management says that unmanned personal aircrafts interfering with fire suppression efforts can lead to criminal prosecution.

“It’s infuriating,” a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson told the LA Times.

This isn’t the first time drones have interfered with firefighting efforts. Irony is, drones can also help in these situations. But flying robots buzzing in the literal heat of an emergency is causing tension: A firefighter tried blasting a drone with a fire hose on at least one occasion.

[LA Times]

Image via Getty: Firefighters walk through smoke at a Mt. Hamilton, Cal. forest fire June 3



How would a 4 foot wide drone prevent 10k or so gallons of fire retardant from reaching the ground? They couldn’t just fly above it and dump their load? I openly admit to knowing NOTHING about how all this works...but when they say a drone got in the way, I’m picturing a remote control full sized plane here....not something the width of an average 8 year old...