Drones Hamper Firefighting Efforts at Utah Wildfire

Officials say drones halted aircraft operations at Saddle Fire

 

PAMELA MANSON, The Salt Lake Tribune

Efforts to fight the Saddle Fire in southern Utah have been hampered by the public using drones in the area, fire officials said Sunday.

There have been two drone incidents, the latest Sunday evening, that halted aircraft operations to battle the blaze, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM said in a news release that there is a five-mile temporary flight restriction over the Saddle Fire, making it illegal to fly a drone in the area. The agency noted that flying the unmanned aerial vehicles in a prohibited area is a misdemeanor and the violation becomes a felony if a drone collides with firefighting equipment.

The Saddle Fire is burning in the Pine Valley Wilderness of Dixie National Forest, about 21/2 miles west of the town of Pine Valley. The fire, which was sparked by lightning, covered 318 acres as of 7 p.m. Sunday.

Air tankers have dropped 16,875 gallons of fire retardant on the blaze, the news release says.

Rocky areas and steep slopes have made the fire difficult to fight.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: PamelaMansonSLC

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