Mar 18, 2021

Drones and Fighting Fires – A Bad Combination?


Attack drone in Torrance, CAOn a Southern California freeway, a fire engulfed tens of vehicles and kept moving forward at an incredible pace. The firefighters were there to take over the fire, but their efforts ended up in smoke when witnesses saw drones (quadcopters) flying near the firefighting vicinity. On Friday, firefighters were ready to put out the fire using their planes, but soon witnesses saw five drones flying where the firefighter planes had to perform their operations.

Cajon Pass connects Las Vegas to California, and that’s where the fire started, and it was moving on at an incredible pace. Lee Beyer, the spokesperson for US Forest Service, told the media about the problems caused by drones. The firefighting planes could not perform their operations for nearly half an hour until drone pilots cleared their quads from the flying region.

On multiple occasions, the drones delayed firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the wildfire. People have become divided over whether drones should fly in fire zones or not. Some people want drones completely banned; others want a solution where they won’t be prohibited, but they won’t cause any delays in firefighting operations. Some people seem more annoyed that quadcopters get passed off as drones.

Beyer also told the media about a flying area for drones located very close to the area where the fire started. The closeness of that area also became a reason for flying drones in the vicinity of the fire.
Sources say that the firefighters' ground crew tracked these drones' operators and forcefully told them to shut down their UAVs (uncrewed aerial vehicles). However, pro-drone groups have talked about the issue on their online forums and stated that they immediately shut down their gadgets once supervisors communicated dangers.

Beyer said that it was impossible to fly firefighter planes when there were drones around because of the possibility that drones could hit the planes' propellers and cause them to malfunction or come down on the ground. If the drone operators were flying their drones intentionally to halt the firefighters' operations, they could receive jail time behind bars. However, no arrests were made because there were no such intentions involved.

The fire was big, and there were nearly 1000 firefighters on the job to kill the fire that had already swallowed up 11 constructions in the area. The area that the fire destroyed was around 35,000 acres. The freeway scene was a horrifying one as the drivers frantically left their vehicles and started running uphill to save their lives. An eye witness at the scene, namely Allevato, said that everyone was going uphill and abandoning their cars.

Some people have given aggressive remarks after hearing the news, even though drone operators who got word of the incident have clearly stated that they were within the legal area where they were supposed to fly. Various suggestions are coming from people on how to tackle the drones if such situations arise, and many people think that they should be shot down. Citizens must understand that these drones are not as small as many people might imagine.

These drones can be as heavy as 30 to 40lbs, and if such drones get shot from the air, they can cause significant accidents when they fall on the ground. Pro-drone individuals are worried about what the future would unfold for their favorite gadgets. Michael Ehline is a prolific blogger on California and international tort law. He has been a guest on CNN, discussed in major news publications like Forbes, Circle of Legal Trust, Personal Injury Warriors, and International Cruise Victims. He has lobbied congress on behalf of injured consumers, served as a United States Marine, and won millions of dollars for his clients as a West Los Angeles injury attorney. This blog discusses Ehline's insights and musings on all aspects of negligence law as it relates to all things "accidents." Ehline can be reached at (213) 596-9642.