Drones a cause for concern for crews fighting wildfires

helicopterCentral Point, Ore. — There was a close call last month for a Mercy Flights helicopter en route to Yreka when a drone flew dangerously close to the helicopter’s blades. The incident has sparked a conversation about the growing presence of drones, and the potential dangers they present for other aircraft including the Oregon Department of Forestry, where they’re set to get their first helicopter of the season in the sky this weekend.

“They cant fight fire when there’s a drone in the air.”

Fire Prevention Specialist Brian Ballou says as drones become more popular, they become more problematic.

“If you’re whizzing along it’s really hard to pick up something as small as a drone,” Ballou says.

For planes and helicopters, the small aircraft can be fatal.

“If the drone gets mixed up in the rotors, gets sucked into the engine, that aircraft is probably going to come down and someone’s going to die.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry says they’ll stop a fire fighting operation from the sky if drones are around, and that could be the difference between saving someone’s home and watching it burn. They ask that if you are flying in the area to keep the unmanned aircraft 5 miles away or more from any fire fighting operation.

“It’s really vital that drones not be anywhere around because they’re really small and pilots might not see them until it’s too late.”


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