Drone halts wildfire fight near Castlegar on Saturday

Drone halts fire fight

The BC Wildfire Service is reminding operators of drone aircraft it is illegal to fly them in areas close to where crews are actively fighting forest fires.

Wildfire staff battling a blaze at Kimbol Lake near Castlegar on Saturday were forced to temporarily suspend their aerial operations and ground a helicopter because there were people flying drones near the fire. The helicopter was allowed to fly again once the drones landed.

The same thing happened in Vernon on Saturday, when a drone halted air support on the Becker Lake wildfire.

Transport Canada and the BC Wildfire Service prohibit the use of UAVs or drones of any size near a wildfire. The consequences of a drone colliding with an aircraft could be catastrophic.

Wildfires are considered flight-restricted areas within a radius of five nautical miles from the fire to an altitude of 3,000 feet. Anyone caught operating a drone that interferes with fire control are subject to a fine of up to $100,000 or could be imprisoned for a year or both.

The risk of fire is high to extreme in much of the province, with very little rain in B.C. over the past month and campfires and other open burning in most parts of the province are banned. To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1-800-663-5555 or on cellphone call *5555.

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