Calif. Drone Bill Proposes Jail Time, $5K Fine for Firefighting Interference

Posted by Betsy Lillian on August 19, 2015 No Comments
Categories : Public Safety

California policymakers have co-authored bipartisan legislation to make it a serious crime to fly over a wildfire.

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel; Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado; Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; and Assembly Member Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, introduced S.B.167, which would make it unlawful to operate a drone in a manner that interferes with the efforts of firefighters to extinguish a fire.

Violators could be punished by imprisonment in a county jail of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Existing law says it is a misdemeanor to interfere with the lawful efforts of a firefighter to extinguish a fire – punishable by a fine of only up to $1,000.

“Firefighters face tremendous risk, and the last thing they need is to have a drone get in their way and potentially cause a catastrophic crash of public safety aircraft,” says Bates, who is a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. “That is why we need to make it crystal clear that flying a drone in a fire zone is unacceptable and will be strongly punished. A person’s hobby should not put the lives of our firefighters at risk.

“With further research and appropriate guidelines, drones can help first responders to fight wildfires and respond to other incidents,” she says. “However, California must have zero tolerance for those who fly drones in fire zones that endanger our firefighters. We must act now to help prevent a potential tragedy that could take the lives of first responders and others.”

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