Categories: Peninsula

Drones flying over wildfires will be confiscated, owners arrested

Firefighters, law enforcement and elected officials in Santa Clara County are getting serious about people flying recreational drones near or over active wildfire areas or law enforcement operations and warn, if you do so, you could have your drone confiscated and you may face arrest.

County supervisors recently passed an ordinance prohibiting such use of drones and have initiated a No Drone Zone public safety campaign to alert the public to risks and penalties.

“We know there are people in Santa Clara County who just don’t use common sense with their toys or tools like drones,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “If you use drones that interfere with our firefighters or public safety officers, you’re going to lose them.”

Drones encroaching on the airspace of planes, tankers and helicopters engaged in low-flying aerial attacks on wildfires have halted operations and slowed firefighting efforts.

During the Eden Fire in Saratoga in July, a private drone zipping around near the blaze forced a Cal Fire helicopter to be grounded to avoid a collision with the device. The drone owner was subsequently prosecuted.

Drones have also been known to disrupt county jail operations and security in attempts to smuggle drugs into county facilities, authorities said.

In Santa Clara County, more than 4,500 drones have been registered since 2016. Nationwide, the Federal Aviation Administration reports more than 770,000 drone registrations were filed in the past 15 months.

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