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Don’t fly drones near fire zones – unless you’re a firefighter

We absolutely hate it when drone operators do dumb things. And one of those really dumb things – that seems to happen again and again – is flying near the scene of a fire. It can interfere with operations, taint public opinion – and lead to fines for the pilot. So we’ll say it again here: Don’t fly your drone near firefighters. Why? Read on.


It’s not that difficult to understand, right? Flying near wildfires poses a threat to any manned aircraft in the area. In fact, there have been many instances where water bombers and aerial firefighting equipment have had to be grounded as a result of someone flying a drone.

“If you fly, firefighters can’t”

That quote comes directly from the Federal Aviation Administration. In fact, the FAA has even more to say on the topic of drones and firefighting:

Flying a drone near a wildfire is dangerous and can cost lives. When people fly drones near wildfires, fire response agencies often ground their aircraft to avoid the potential for a midair collision. Delaying airborne response poses a threat to firefighters on the ground, residents and property in nearby communities, and it can allow wildfires to grow larger. Sadly, these incidents occur on a regular basis… Your photos and video footage of the wildfires are not worth the lives and crucial operations they jeopardize.

This happens a lot

The FAA says there have been more than 100 incidents of incursions where firefighters were trying to carry out their work. And those are *documented* cases, where actual paperwork has been filed about the drone flights. You can bet there are plenty of other undocumented cases. In 2019, there were at least 21 public drone incursions.

Wait, some might say. How much disruption could those flights have truly caused?

A lot. As this infographic explains, aerial fire suppression had to be called off in 10 of those incidents:

Infographic from

And it just happened again…

Despite all of this public education, some people either haven’t heard the word – or are willfully ignoring the rules. The latest example came to us via Twitter, and this post from Mike Rogers, a journalist at CBS Los Angeles:

Journalist Mike Rogers shares our frustration

Clearly, Mike Rogers was trying to perform a public service here. But you know what?

Some people still don’t get it…

Not only is this drone being piloted close to firefighters – it’s also close to a power line! And even so, some people on Twitter didn’t see the problem:

“How is it hampering??,” replied one user. “It’s so small and not in the way.”

Dude. Seriously? It didn’t take long for someone to reply:

“A bird smaller than a drone can take a plane down. And they have no way of knowing what the fool flying it is going to do,” they Tweeted. And that wasn’t the only response.

A small bird, a kite, a balloon can take down a helicopter. It can damage the tail rotor – once a helicopter loses a tail rotor – it is almost always catastrophic. #drones need to follow the rules the FAA has in place. It’s easy. You see an actual aircraft – land.

Twitter User

You can, of course, face fines for this kind of stupidity. And increasingly, authorities are not likely to give anyone a pass on this. The potential consequences of these unauthorized drone flights are simply too great – and officials have been telling people not to do this for years.

Bring out the nets

One Twitter user noted that this might ultimately be the best solution:


And if, for some reason, you have any doubt whatsoever about why you shouldn’t fly in these areas, please take one minute of your time and watch this video.

If you fly, they can’t!

By all means, enjoy your UAS. Just don’t fly your drone near firefighters.