Drones flown in a wildfire suppression area create additional hazards to fire fighting personne; and increase risk to structures and lives on the ground. When people fly drones into the fire fighting area, fire manager must ground their own drones and helicopters until the air space is clear.
Representative John Curtis, the Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forest, and Public Lands Subcommittee spoke on the floor today on behalf of his bipartisan bill, H.R. 5040, the Aerial Incursion Repercussion (AIR) Safety Act.
Introduced last year with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Senator Cortez-Masto (D-NV), and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), the AIR Safety Act raises awareness on issues interfering with wildfire fighting by directing the Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, and Federal Aviation Administration to work with their State forestry partners to conduct a study on how drone trespassing has affected wildfire suppression and costs and recommend potential remedies. The legislation passed the House with a 382-6 vote on Thursday.
Brian Cottam, the Utah State Forester notes that ““In Utah, we have seen drone incursions continue to endanger firefighter and public safety. Congressman Curtis’s AIR Safety Act is a step in the right direction to reveal the extent of drone disruption in wildfire suppression and help put a stop to this dangerous behavior.”
Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) issued the following statement in support: “As our climate warms, states all across the West are struggling with year-round fire seasons and increasingly destructive wild and rangeland fires. Our local fire departments need to have every tool possible at their disposal to fight these fires, and that includes information on how unauthorized drones interfere with firefighting efforts. I’m glad to see the House pass this legislation to authorize the FAA to collect data on the impacts and costs of drone incursions on wildfire suppression.”