With the Texas winter wildfire season in full swing, officials at Texas A&M Forest Service are responding to an increase in wildfire frequency across the state. However, last week, two single engine air tankers (SEATS) responding to a wildfire in Erath County were grounded due to the presence of a drone in the wildfire perimeter.
Thus, the service is reiterating to the public that flying an unauthorized drone near a wildfire can create a serious safety hazard for firefighters and halt the assistance of any firefighting aircraft.
“The first SEAT had already dropped retardant on the fire, and the second SEAT was lined up to follow and complete the drop when the drone appeared directly in their path,” explains Erin O’Connor, public information officer at Texas A&M Forest Service.
On Feb. 23 alone, Texas A&M Forest Service says it responded to 10 fires for an estimated 7,114.2 acres.
Shawn Whitley, program coordinator at the service, adds, “While UAS – or drones – are fun to fly, they pose a direct threat to pilot safety on wildfires. If you fly, we can’t – which means potentially more threat to lives and property. If you see someone using a drone in the area of a wildfire, please contact your local law enforcement department.”