Colo. TV station's drone temporarily disrupted air drops on wildfire

"Flying a drone near firefighting aircraft not only poses a hazard to pilots ... the safety of firefighters on the ground is compromised," police said

By Liz Forster
The Gazette

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Air drops attacking the 117 fire in southern El Paso County were halted midday Thursday after a media outlet flew a drone within the restricted airspace above the fire, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said.

The Sheriff's Office said in a release at 8:30 a.m. Thursday that temporary flight restrictions were in place for a 10-mile radius around Hanover. About 12:30 p.m., a drone, which was later identified as one owned by KRDO, was observed flying in the restricted area.

Thursday evening, KRDO posted a statement on its website saying the drone was owned by the station. The statement said the pilot the station contracted is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, but did not know that the temporary flight restriction was in place.

"Prior fires in the same vicinity this year did not have TFRs in place," the statement read.

The Sheriff's Office advised that flying a drone over a temporary flight restricted area can be deadly.

"Flying a drone near firefighting aircraft not only poses a hazard to pilots, but when aircraft are grounded because of a violation ... the safety of firefighters on the ground is compromised, and firefighting aircraft are not available to protect homes and property," a release from the Sheriff's Office said.

Drone pilots that fly in an area under a temporary flight restriction can face federal charges and be subject to severe penalties.

It is not clear whether KRDO's pilot will face charges.

Copyright 2018 The Gazette


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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