USA — Wildfire managers in Utah think the state is in for another long fire season, especially in southern Utah where it is very dry. Theyre also concerned about a relatively new hobby that could make fighting fires a bit more difficult.
Drones, or remote-controlled helicopters, are becoming more popular with the public and they’re getting cheaper too. Cameras on the machines give operators a great vantage point of an area, from an angle many people arent used to seeing.
Wildfire managers, like Mike Melton with Great Basin Incident Management, are concerned about what might happen if people fly drones over active wildfires.
This is still pretty new to us, but its something we want to be proactive on, Melton said; and when youre proactive in the area of safety, thats always a good thing for anyone.
As an air attack supervisor with Great Basin, one of Meltons main responsibilities is to coordinate aerial support on wildfires. His concern, of course, is having one of those flying drones get in the way of firefighting helicopters and airplanes, possibly causing an accident.
We want to be cognizant of that, and we also want the public to think about it too that this could be a real impact on the safety of aviators flying on a forest fire, he said.
Right now, anyone can fly a drone; the FAA isnt regulating them. Federal agents say in the future they plan to look into how the machines should be handled, but for now it seems all wildfire managers can do is inform the public of potential risks.
Were just going to want to ask the people for their cooperation, and thats all we can do at this point, Melton said. (we) just really plead with the public to use a little bit of common sense when it comes to these sorts of things.