Drone stalls airtanker flights over Montana fire

Montana law enforcement officials have seized a drone that shut down airtanker flights Saturday over the Fritz fire, burning outside of Billings. 

The incident comes less than a month after the Federal Aviation Administration sent a mass email to all people who have drones registered with agency asking that they not fly during wildfires. 

The email warned that “drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution.”

(Read a copy of the email here.)

The Fritz fire has destroyed at least one home and burned more than 1,000 acres, according to local media reports. As of Sunday, local media said it was at 40 percent containment. 

The fire ignited Friday evening, and that night a private drone was spotted flying in the area. The Billings-Gazette reported law enforcement officials took possession of the drone on Friday. 

It appears that flight operations were shut down for a half-an-hour.  

Drones, like other aircraft, are subject to temporary flight restrictions put in place during a wildfire, according to information from the National Fire Information Center. 

According to information compiled by NIFC: 

“Individuals who are determined to have interfered with wildfire suppression efforts may be subject to civil penalties and potentially criminal prosecution.” 

2 thoughts on “Drone stalls airtanker flights over Montana fire”

  1. This was the first fire I was over where we had to shut down the air show because of a drone. This was one of the most frustrating things I have seen over a fire. There were several structures threatened (At least 3 buildings I saw were fully engulfed. We had about 1 heavy load left to complete the retardant line on the left flank when the call came in about the drone. What a moron.

  2. They know who it is at this point, Please make an example out of the idiot and levy a LARGE fine.

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