BC Wildfire says its crews were able to get back into the air, after being grounded for close to five hours thanks to an aerial drone.
Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says it’s put a wedge in their fire containment efforts.
“I really can’t enunciate enough how troubling this is. We had air tankers and helicopters that were trying to respond to that, and obviously for safety reasons until that drone has left.”
Skrepnek says this isn’t the first time this has happened this season…
“The other situation I’m aware of this season was a few weeks ago at the Westside Road Fire north of Kelowna. We had a similar situation and we did have a helicopter in the area that did have to land because there was a drone spotted nearby.”
The drone first entered the airspace at around 12:30 Sunday afternoon.
Mounties were on site trying to chase it away from the area with a helicopter.
Fire Information Officer Noelle Kekula was asked whether or not there are other ways to bring the drones down…
“Yeah, I don’t – it’s an RCMP matter. This is an incredibly, like, this is a public safety issue, right? And so, for anybody who owns a drone, keep it out of an active fire, right?
They’ve been unable to confirm who the owner, what kind of drone it is, is or where it’s coming from.
Enforcement may be coming
David Carlos owns Victoria Aerial Photos and Survey, a school that trains UAV pilots. He says commercial operators currently need licenses – but so far consumers don’t.
“But it’s coming. I really believe it’s going to come soon. Based on what we’re seeing happen. And, I think everybody … it should be like boating, recreational boating licenses. Even recreational people have to have a basic idea of what they’re doing.”
He says contrary to what some seem to think – the rules around flying them are very clear.
“And it says right there on the ‘don’t fly’ – it says ‘within restrcited airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fires. Anywhere there’s a forest fire is restricted airspace, automatically.”
Carlos say Transport Canada does have clear rules about what’s allowed – but catching troublemakers can be tough.
He says incidents like today’s will likely lead to better enforcement.