Drones making it difficult for crews battling the Ross Fork Fire

Keeping firefighters safe is of utmost importance right now.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 4:08 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — It’s definitely been an active situation in northern Blaine County since Labor Day weekend.

“A lot of people want to see what’s going on,” said fire team spokesperson Nate Leising.

Because of this, drones have been spotted in the fire area, according to the Forest Service. This is making it tougher on the firefighters — especially the helittack firefighters.

“It can impact flight operations,” said fire team spokesperson Leslie Kobinsky. “If a helicopter sees a drone, it needs to land immediately for the airspace to be clear. This can mean a delay in response time, it can pose a threat to firefighters on the ground, and it essentially delay whatever mission that that aircraft was doing.”

Obviously, the delay in response means bad things for potential progress on the fire.

“Depending on the situation, it can cause up to hours of delay for the helittack crew to continue their operations,” said Kobinsky.

If the crews start their flight and can’t see the drone, it puts the lives of everyone in the aircraft at risk.

“If the drone comes into the vicinity of the helicopter, it could result in a mid-air collision,” Kobinsky said.

With all of these risks, the FAA has put in place a no-fly zone for the entire fire area. If you’re caught with a drone, you’ll definitely pay a hefty price.

“The FAA has considered this a federal crime,” Kobinsky said. “It’s punishable by fines or by being in prison.”

While lots of progress has been made, the fire is still actively burning. Firefighters still need to work to protect people and property.

“The visibility window for these pilots to fly is extremely narrow,” said Kobinsky. “They need every chance that can get to get into the air and assist with the fire.”

Keeping firefighters safe is of utmost importance right now.

“The firefighters are concentrating and focusing on the fire,” said Leising. “Please just stay out of the area.”