Rep. Paul Cook Introduces Bill to Ban Personal Drone Use During Federal Firefighting
WASHINGTON- Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R- Apple Valley) introduced H.R. 3025, the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015. This bill will institute a criminal penalty on anyone who launches a drone that interferes with fighting wildfires on federal property.
Recently, a hobby drone flew into airspace over the Lake Fire blaze in the San Bernardino mountains while first responders were trying to extinguish the massive wildfire. This forced the immediate grounding of all firefighting aircraft because of the threat the drone posed to low-flying planes. This prevented firefighters from keeping control of the expanding wildfire for an afternoon and led to thousands of additional acres being burned.
The Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015 would make it a federal offense to launch a drone that interferes with fighting wildfires on federal property. Firefighters and other first responders who use drones for aerial firefighting would be exempted. Anyone convicted under the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015 would face a fine and imprisonment for up to five years.
Cook said, “I couldn’t believe it when I heard that aerial firefighting was brought to a grinding halt because a reckless individual decided to fly a drone over the Lake Fire. Not only did it put the lives of aerial firefighters in jeopardy, but the loss of air support for fire crews allowed the wildfire to spread. Interfering with our firefighters is a serious problem, and this legislation will ensure that those who endanger our firefighters in the future will face a serious penalty.”