California firefighters had to delay assistance to vehicles that caught fire on I-15 due to the presence of drone aircraft, according to CNN.
“Five such ‘unmanned aircraft systems’ prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared Friday onto a Los Angeles area freeway that leads to Las Vegas. Helicopters couldn’t drop water because five drones hovered over the blaze, creating hazards in smoky winds for a deadly midair disaster, officials said.”
As a result, Southern California lawmaker Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) co-introduced legislation in Sacramento voicing his concern.
“Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation. Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area that doesn’t mean you should do it.”
One of two Senate Bills introduced both by Gatto and Sen. Ted Gaines (R) would grant “immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations.”
Although commercial drone operator Mark Burns is in favor of fines, he is concerned over how much power we give our first responders and potential danger caused by disabling a drone in mid-flight. “Allowing first responders to be able to damage someone else’s private property is a realm of law we don’t want to be in.” Burns also explained how disabling a drone may endanger others, “these lithium batteries are very explosive if the cells get damaged or if they over heat they can spontaneously explode and either hurt somebody or cause a greater situation, more fires different places.”
Gatto and Gaines also worked together on companion legislation: SB 167, which would increase fines and even possibility of jail time for drone use that prevents first responders from doing their job.
“We have ever-emerging technologies that can disrupt and disable a nuisance drone,” Gatto said. “Our emergency response personnel shouldn’t be at risk when coming to the aid of our communities.”
This is not the first time drones have interfered with first responders according to CBS Los Angeles.”Firefighting aircraft were grounded near Big Bear Lake due to a drone near last month’s Lake Fire, while another drone delayed efforts to battle a blaze in Mill Creek Canyon for at least 20 minutes on July 12.”
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