LAKE MATHEWS – During the “Eagle” Fire near Lake Mathews in Riverside County, a privately-operated drone was spotted over the fire area, causing a ten-minute suspension in aerial firefighting operations. A second drone was spotted again over the fire after firefighting aircraft returned to Ryan Air Attack Base.
Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as air tankers and helicopters fly at very low altitudes; sometimes just a few hundred feet above the ground. “If you fly, we can’t,” is the message that Cal Fire officials cannot stress enough.
Drones flying in or near a fire or incident where an aircraft is working presents a critical life-safety hazard; not only to the public, but to the firefighters in the air and on the ground who work tirelessly to extinguish these fires. The delay in pulling aircraft from wildland fires can make fire suppression challenging.
Cal Fire and the Riverside County Fire Department urges those who fly drones to be responsible and keep them away from wildland fires or other incidents where emergency aircraft fly. Aircraft can be dispatched to a fire at any time during the incident.
Similar to a crime tip line, people who have information about irresponsible drone operators who have flown close to disasters and emergencies can call (844) 376-6311. This telephone line is not for reporting emergencies. Significant incident information is posted and updated 24/7 by the Cal Fire and the Riverside County Fire Department Public Affairs Bureau, along with incident photos when available.
For more information on significant incidents within the Riverside County Fire Department jurisdiction, visit www.rvcfire.org or find Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department on Facebook.