Drone ground helicopter at fire

Airspace over an active wildfire is restricted and illegal to fly over in a five nautical mile radius

Local residents are being warned about the use of drones after an incident at the Shelter Cove wildfire.

One helicopter assigned to the Westside Road fire Saturday was forced to land due to a privately-controlled drone in the area.

Firefighters were able to overcome the lack of air support, but fire information officer Melissa Klassen noted it was still a serious issue.

She explained that aircraft fly at low altitudes over fires, which poses a significant safety risk when there is other air traffic in the area they can’t communicate with.

Furthermore, she said it is a huge concern when they can’t provide air support to a wildfire.

Crews rely heavily on air support, and halting air operations can limit the progress they make on a fire.

Airspace over an active wildfire is restricted and illegal to fly over in a five nautical mile radius, and Klassen said they worked with RCMP Saturday to determine where the drone came from.

The investigation into the drone incident is ongoing.

The Shelter Cove fire is about 560 hectares in size and 90 per cent contained, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Crews have been working to mop up the perimeter of the fire.