Draganflyer X6 carrying a thermal infrared camera. Courtesy Draganfly Innovations Inc.
Draganflyer X6 carrying a thermal infrared camera. Courtesy Draganfly Innovations Inc.

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, has co-authored a bill making it a crime to fly a drone over a wildfire, she announced Tuesday.

SB 167 is intended to keep drones from causing a crash with emergency vehicles such as helicopters or planes that fight fires.

“Firefighters face tremendous risk and the last thing they need is to have a drone get in their way and potentially cause a catastrophic crash of public safety aircraft,” Bates said.

“That is why we need to make it crystal clear that flying a drone in a fire zone is unacceptable and will be strongly punished. A person’s hobby should not put the lives of our firefighters at risk.”

Violators could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. It is a misdemeanor to interfere with firefighting efforts, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine.

The bill was prompted by multiple incidents with drones nearly causing air accidents during efforts to fight wildfires. It is co-authored by state Sens. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale.

— Staff and wire reports

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