Highway 195 firefighting efforts hampered by drone


(STORY IMAGE:KHQ.COM)

SPOKANE, Wash. -On Saturday, just south of Spokane along Highway 195 a fire broke out.

The small brush fire started around 10 a.m. and started spreading. Dubbed the Snag Fire, it grew to about 10 acres  and triggered some evacuation orders nearby before it was contained. However, according to Spokane County Fire District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach, had they had air support sooner, it potentially could have stayed small.

The reason for the lack of air support was due to a drone flying in the area. A firefighter working the fire spotted the drone and immediately cancelled air support to the fire. Drones fly at low altitude and would risk interfering or potentially hitting a firefighting aircraft.

In Los Angeles a drone came withing 50 feet of hitting a DC-10 air tanker.

Aldo Leonardi, a Fire Boss pilot says. "if we were to hit a drone it could potentially catastrophic." He said that if it were to hit the windshield or the engine, it could put the aircraft, people on the ground, and the pilot all at risk.

With the Snag Fire, aircraft were grounded for more than 30 minutes until the drone cleared the airspace, which was critical time to be fighting the fire.

Aldo says, "if you see us (fire fighting aircraft) we are working a fire, just keep your distance."

For drone pilots you can download the B4UFLY app for your smart phone. It shows you all restrictions and no fly zones.