Firefighters have noticed a trend of consumer drones impeding firefighting efforts.
Jason Thrasher, a firefighter helicopter pilot had 7 firefighters aboard when he thought he saw another chopper fighting the fire. He began to lower his helicopter to get out of the way, when he realized what he was seeing was a four-rotor drone 10 feet from his windshield. He took a hard left to avoid a collision.
"If that drone came through my windshield, I have no idea what could have happened. If that drone hits my tail rotor, for sure it's going to be catastrophic," said Thrasher.
The U.S. Forest Service has had 13 wildfires this year in which drones had impeded firefighting efforts. This is up dramatically from last year when only four drones impacted firefighting efforts. Last month, five drones were discovered at one wildfire. They had effected firefighting efforts so much that for twenty minutes, crews couldn't fight the fire as it spread.
Legally, drones shouldn't be higher than 400 feet, stay clear of stadiums and people, and not come within 5 miles of airports. During wildfires, drones are banned.
Public service announcements have started to go into effect.
"When you can't support firefighters on the ground, fires get bigger. It's significant, and it's a huge issue," said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Pilots are reporting drones at airports during landings and firefighters are reporting drones at fire scenes. Last week, flames engulfed a Vietnamese restaurant. The fire department tweeted to the drone flyer, "You are interfereing with fire operations."