Drones causing problems battling Pinal Fire

Posted at 4:48 AM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 11:18:52-04

Hobbyists trying to capture photos or video of the Pinal Fire, burning nearly 7,000 acres near Globe, have caused firefighting efforts to slow down or stop four times.  

"One of the drops on the Pinal Fire, the air tanker, the pilot actually had to drop at a higher altitude -- so basically that makes the retardant ineffective," public affairs officer Tiffany Davila with the Department of Forestry and Fire Management told ABC15.  

"It's basically like flushing money down the toilet," she said.  

Flying a drone over a wildfire is against federal law, carrying the potential for jail time and fines up to $25,000. Still, Davila says the average cost of a wasted fire retardant drop is around $30,000.  

"Having to suspend operations is not only coming out of our pocket, it's coming out of the taxpayers pocket as well," she said. 

The department is working with state and federal partners on an outreach campaign using the simple message: "If you fly, we can't"

Davila says in one of the four recent cases, law enforcement was able to track down a drone pilot and seize the aircraft.  

For more information on drones and wildfires, click here