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DNR reminds drone users to keep drones away from wildfires

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Michigan is in the heart of wildfire season, and state Department of Natural Resources officials say if a fire does crop up, drone activity can get in the way of firefighting operations.

John Pepin is Deputy Public Information Officer for the DNR. He said there are a number of ways drones can interfere.

 

“Drones in the same flight space are a hazard for our aircraft,” he said. “So you know if there’s a drone that comes in the area when a spotter plane is trying to fly or a fire suppression airplane is trying to fly then pilots immediately leave the area and they have to potentially be grounded.”

 

Pepin said this can cause more risks for firefighters on the ground.

 

“It endangers the lives of firefighters that are on the ground trying to put out the fire, because a spotter pilot can tell them how the fire is moving and if it’s coming toward them or if they’re moving in an area where it looks like the fires going to erupt.”

 

Pepin said there have been 127 wildfires this year in Michigan, as of May 22. That’s on par with the fire activity Michigan saw last year.

 

Pepin says a new law went into effect this spring penalizing anyone who intentionally flies a drone near a wildfire in Michigan. The punishment is a fine of up to 500 dollars and/or imprisonment of up to 90 days. The DNR is requesting drone operators to stay five miles away from any fires.

 

The law also says drones cannot intentionally interfere with the official duties of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or search and rescue personnel.