In late June, the Lake Fire burned through 30,000 acres of California wilderness in San Bernardino county. In order to keep the flames from encroaching on an area of nearby houses, the US Forest Service sent three planes filled with fire retardant—a DC-10 and two smaller planes—to dump on an area of the fire. That cargo never reached its intended target, however, because the low-flying planes had to turn back when they encountered a drone flying about 800 or 900 feet off the ground. The DC-10 was able to deposit its flame retardant in another location, but the two smaller planes had to jettison their loads in order to land.
The aborted mission cost the US Fire Service $10,000. Now, lawmakers are introducing legislation to make sure it doesn't happened again.
Last week, California representative Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced H.R. 3025 to the House of Representatives, which would make it a criminal offense to interfere with fire fighting efforts on federal land. “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,” Cook said in a statement. “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.” Cook's district is in Eastern California, just north of the area that burned in the Lake Fire.