A blaze is raging over a region called Darwen Moor near Manchester in the UK. But something else is also raging: a battle between emergency helicopters and gawker drones.
The situation got so bad that a helicopter helping to extinguish the blaze had to be grounded for fear of colliding with the drone, reports the Lancashire Telegraph.
“A drone has been spotted today, flying over the moor. Because of this, the helicopter that’s meant to be dropping water onto the moor has been forced to land for safety reasons,” wrote the Bolton Mountain Rescue Team on its Facebook page. “This is massively hampering the firefighting effort. Do not fly your drones anywhere near these locations.”
This unfortunately is not a rare phenomenon. While most drone pilots are responsible flyers, enough of them are drawn to disaster areas like moths to a flame, and they often disrupt legitimate rescue efforts.
It’s not like there is any ambiguity about whether or not drones can fly in such areas. In the US, at least, drone rules specifically forbid flying near any emergency scenes. This is not only to stay out of the way of helicopters but also other drones that emergency personnel may be using to assess the scene.
The Darwen Moor fire broke out on Saturday evening, and officials suspect it was the result of a careless BBQ. It’s one of several blazes in this region north of Manchester. Firefighters from the town of Lancashire have had to tackle four other nearby blazes on Saturday and another on Sunday. It’s a dangerous time in this region. And unfortunately, rubbernecking drone pilots have only made things worse.