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Dangerous drone blamed for spreading huge wildfire

Dangerous drone blamed for spreading huge wildfire
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I posted a video the other day of firefighters blasting a drone with water when it flew too near a house fire. That video sparked quite a bit of controversy in the comments section, with a lot of people saying the firefighters were in the wrong.

The debate is still going on, but now there's another story about firefighters and drones that shows why flying a drone near a fire isn't a good idea. In fact, the drone blew a $15,000 mission and helped a wildfire spread. Here are the details.

As you might have heard, there's a massive fire raging in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Big Bear Lake in California. On Wednesday, firefighters had an opening to bring it under control and called in some planes to drop some fire retardant.

With two hours of drops still left to do, a supervisor examining the fire from the air spotted a fixed-wing drone flying at 10,500 feet. A DC-10 en route carrying 10,800 gallons had to divert to avoid a potential mid-air collision.

Fortunately, the DC-10 was able to divert to a fire in Nevada and use the retardant there. However, two smaller planes that were following it had to jettison their cargo in a remote area so they could land back at base.

With the drone in the area, and no way to communicate with the pilot, fire drops had to be called off for the rest of the day. To add insult to injury, returning to their base, the planes spotted another drone flying at 1,200 feet when FAA rules limit drones to 400 feet.

Fire officials put the cost of the failed mission between $10,000 and $15,000. Even worse, the fire's containment dropped from 27% to 19% overnight, and has expanded to consume more than 25,000 acres.

Police are going to be patrolling the mountains around the fire looking for drone pilots. The U.S. Forest Service wants to remind everyone that it is illegal to fly a drone in restricted airspace, and that includes around a fire.

If you follow the rules, however, flying a drone can be a fun hobby, or good training for a future job. Learn how to buy the right drone for you.

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Source: LA Times
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