Law Would Make Flying Drones Over Wildfires A Federal Felony

Fires are burning in Colorado, Utah and there’s fire danger in other parts of the Mountain West. Now three U.S. Congressmen from Colorado have introduced legislation that would make it a felony to fly a drone over a wildfire. Drones can make fighting fires more difficult and put lives at risk.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado is one of the lawmakers who introduced the legislation. He recently spoke about the issue at a senate press conference.

He said, “if you are flying an unauthorized drone in one of these areas where a tanker is trying to get in to fight a fire, stop it. Get out of the way, let these firemen and women do their job without interference.”

Ben Miller, with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, said there have already been instances in Colorado this year where a drone has entered the airspace and firefighters have had to temporarily ground their aircrafts. And that can be risky.

“When you’re actively attacking a fire,” said Miller, “anytime you have to stop, obviously the fire can get the upper hand.”

Interfering with a firefighters efforts to put out a fire is already against federal law and punishable by a significant fine or mandatory court appearance.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.