In recent years, hobby drones have skyrocketed in popularity.
And Cal Fire officials are seeing more and more of them popping up on wildland fire scenes.
“It's been an issue every year since the popularity of the hobby drone has become more prevalent,” Cal Fire public information officer Cheryl Buliavac said.
In 2014, Cal Fire had four reports of drones at active fire scenes.
In 2015, they saw that number shoot up to 21.
And it's been on the rise ever since, which is concerning for Cal Fire.
“It poses a very serious danger,” Buliavac said. “Not only damaging the aircraft, but potentially killing or injuring the crews on board or those working below.”
It's that danger that forces Cal Fire to suspend all aerial operations whenever a drone is spotted.
And time is a valuable resource when fighting wildland fires
“The problem with that though is because it delays the aerial operations,” Buliavac said. “And they're suspended until they can locate that drone and confirm that it's no longer in the air.”
Buliavac says air support offers a much-needed tactical advantage when fighting fires because they're often the first ones able to get to the scene.
“In a lot of our local areas, access is difficult, sometimes extremely steep, rugged terrain,” Buliavac said. “And it takes awhile to get those ground resources in there. So the aircraft not only has a good visual on the fire and can help lead the ground resources to the most efficient access point.”
Cal fire asks you to call their special drone tip line at 844-DRONE-11 if you see or know of anyone flying their drone over an active fire space.