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BLM warns about drones near wildfires

CARSON CITY — Bureau of Land Management wildfire managers Wednesday raised a red flag about the hazard of aerial drones flown in areas where firefighters are at work.

The agency said four unauthorized drones have been spotted in restricted area this year, the most recent instance in Northern California.

Unauthorized drones could collide with tankers dropping water or fire retardant, helicopters and other aircraft on wildfire suppression flights, the agency said.

“We understand the interest of (drone) pilots in obtaining video and other data by flying near wildfires,” said Shane McDonald, BLM Fire Management Officer. “It would be an awful tragedy if a (drone) were to cause an accident that resulted in serious injuries or deaths of firefighters.”

Aviation officials typically declare temporary flight restrictions during wildfires that require most aircraft, manned or unmanned, to obtain permission from fire managers to enter specified airspace.

Unauthorized drone flights could force fire managers to suspend aerial firefighting operations, potentially allowing a fire to spread, until they are confident the drone has left the area and won’t return, the agency said.

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