Drone flights can interfere with firefighting and come with big penalties

Already problems reported at western fires

Drones in fire zones pose a big risk

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Drone flights can delay firefighting if they are in the same space, and strict warnings are out.

Already there have been problems in Arizona and Utah where wildland fires are burning in several areas.

A U.S. Forest Service poster is out in many locations warning hobbyists with the message, "if you fly, we can't."

Santa Barbara County Fire Information Officer Mike Eliason says flying a drone near a wildfire is not safe because it can be damaging to an aircraft. Over larger fires, there's often a choreographed pattern of water dropping helicopters and retardant-dropping planes.  A drone in the area could possibly be involved in a collision leading to a crash.

Aircraft were brought down for safety in a Riverside County fire in 2015 and the flames grew shutting down a section of the freeway and destroying cars.

Eliason says there's an array of penalties that could come with interfering with a firefighting aircraft, including fines and jail time.

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