Wildfires and Drones Don't Mix
Drones flying near wildfires can interfere with aerial firefighting missions, which usually occur at or below 200 feet above the ground — the same airspace where many hobbyist drones fly.
If unauthorized drones are spotted near a wildfire, firefighting aircraft must often land due to safety concerns. This could decrease the effectiveness of wildfire suppression operations, allowing wildfires to grow larger, and in some cases, threaten lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources.
Examples of aerial firefighting missions include but are not limited to:
- Aerial supervision
- Air tanker retardant drops
- Helicopter water drops
- Smokejumper paracargo drops
If you fly a drone without authorization over a wildfire, you may be violating Federal, State, and/or local laws, regulations, and ordinances, regardless of whether the FAA has issued a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).
The U.S. Department of the Interior's regulation 43 CFR 9212.1(f) (PDF) states that it is illegal to resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire. Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance.
So, be smart and just don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire. No amount of video or photos are worth the consequences.
There are multiple resources available to drone pilots to help them fly legally and safely: