To date, Lincoln County has not had much in the way of wildfires this summer. But that could change at any moment with a sudden thunderstorm that might move through the area.
Lincoln County Fire District chief Rick Stever has already spoken about the uses of drones in wildfire areas. That if drones are detected, it will shut down all the aerial firefighting efforts, because the drones can bring down or cause expensive damage to other aircraft. Commissioner Paul Mathews had mentioned also that drones are being used by some farmers for various aspects of their business, and Nellis Air Base has asked Lincoln County to craft an ordinance that would prohibit the use of drones over their lands.
Mathews said he has heard of some farmers, although he did not say anywhere from Lincoln County, who might use drones to fly over their pivots to see where areas of land might need to be given more care and maintenance. “A bit easier than going on foot or by truck.”
In a recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal Henry Brean noted, “the Nevada Division of Forestry has issued a warning about the use of remotely piloted drones at fire scenes in the Silver State.”
In the July 31 statement, Nevada Fire Warden Bob Roper said, “If they fly, we can’t. It’s major risk to pilots, ground personnel and aircraft. There may also be civil and/or criminal consequences that Nevada operators need to know about.”
Brean reported that in San Bernardino County, Calif. a $75,000 bounty is offered for information leading to the arrest of a person(s) using a drone over a wildfire area.
In 2014, there were four incidents in the West involving drones and wildfires. However, Stever said he is not aware of any instances in Nevada, nor did he know of any instances happening with the current fires in California and Oregon.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “If you endanger manned aircraft or people on the ground with an unmanned aircraft, you could be liable for a fine ranging from $1,000 and up to $25,000.”
Stever said some people will fly drones in wildfire area “just for the thrill of it.” Equipped with small cameras they can get area photographs.
On the other hand, he noted there have been cases where the U.S. government has “contracted with a drone operator so they can get an overhead view of the fire to see how it is proceeding and what obstacles they need to take into consider in fighting the fire. But it is known by other fire personnel, so they can ground their planes, as needed.”
The Review-Journal article said more information about what to know before you fly can be found at http://knowbeforeyoufly.org.