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$75,000 Offered To Find Some Jerks Who Flew Drones During Wildfires

San Bernardino County is offering $75,000 to find the drone operators who delayed firefighting efforts during wildfires (Photo by Dan McCullough via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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$75,000 in reward money is being offered for information that leads to the identity of the jerks who flew drones during three massive wildfires, delaying firefighting efforts. All five San Bernardino County supervisors decided yesterday to spend $75,000 on rewards in order to help find the drone operators responsible for grounding firefighting aircraft during three major wildfires, the L.A. Times reports. These three fires include the Lake Fire, the North Fire and the Mill 2 Fire.

The Lake Fire occurred on June 17, destroying over 31,000 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest and the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The Mill 2 Fire began on July 12, and impacted 54 acres. The North Fire on July 17, which caused an apocalyptic scene of blazing cars on the 15 freeway at the Cajon Pass, saw aircraft grounded for 25 minutes after drones were spotted in the airspace.

When hobbyists fly their drones during emergencies that require assistance via aircraft—such as those gigantic wildfires SoCal is prone to—firefighters can't fly their aircraft for much-needed water drops. There's a possibility, according to fire officials, that a drone might strike an aircraft, damaging it or potentially causing harm to the pilots and crew on board. Therefore, fire crews have had to ground life-saving aircraft numerous times because of selfish drones operators trying to get a cool video. This has occasionally caused wildfires to spread further, according to fire officials. In the North Fire, which jumped the 15 freeway and set cars and trucks ablaze, Battalion Chief Marc Peebles of the San Bernardino County Fire Department said that drones—including two that gave chase to aircraft—contributed to the fire jumping the freeway.

A recently proposed bill would give firefighters the ability to destroy or disable drones that are interfering with an emergency. Another bill would mean fines or possibly jail time for any droner operator who interferes with firefighting efforts, search and rescue or air ambulance. U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) has introduced a law that would make flying a drone over a wildfire a federal offense with a possibility of five years in prison.

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