In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, supervisors for San Bernardino County, California agreed to offer $75,000 worth of rewards (PDF) in exchange for help in tracking down the drone pilots who flew their drones over wildfires in recent weeks. The drone interference has forced firefighters to ground aircraft, and has caused fires to “spread faster and further,” according to Board of Supervisors Chairman James Ramos.
The first incident occurred in late June, when interference from a hobbyist drone flying over the Lake Fire in San Bernardino County forced the US Forest Service (USFS) to divert three planes carrying flame retardant, costing USFS $10,000. The drone was reportedly flying higher than the legally-allowed 400 feet above the ground, and USFS had issued a temporary flight restriction over the wildfire, as it does commonly during wildfires. The drone operator was not found.
Two weeks later, during the Mill 2 fire (which was also in San Bernardino County), the Los Angeles Times reports that “officials had to briefly suspend a tanker after a drone was spotted flying over Mill Creek Canyon near California 38.”
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