Private drones affect the fighting of Lake Mathews fire

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The late afternoon of July 4th, the Eagle Fire started near Lake Mathews in Riverside County. It burned 205 acres and was fully contained 24 hours later on July 5.

While no structures were threatened or an evacuation warning issued, firefighters were endangered during the incident.

According to Riverside County Fire Department, two privately owned drones flew over the fire area. The first drone necessitated withdrawing aerial firefighting equipment. During the lapse of air craft, after equipment had returned to Ryan Air Attack Base in Hemet, a second drone was seen over the fire area.

County fire officials were concerned about firefighter safety and efforts to fight fires. They stressed, “Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as air tankers and helicopters, fly at very low altitudes; sometimes just a few hundred feet above the ground … Drones flying in or near a fire or incident where aircraft is working present a critical life safety hazard; not only to the public, but to the firefighters in the air and on the ground working tirelessly to extinguish these fires.”

Once again, fire officials are asking the public to keep drones out of the air space needed to fight fires.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires testing and registration of most drones. Similar to a crime tip line, those who have information about irresponsible drone operators who have flown close to disasters and emergencies can call 1-844-DRONE11 (1-844-376-6311). This telephone line is not for reporting emergencies.

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