Firefighting aircraft were forced to halt air operations Sunday on two fires near Oliver due to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or drone) flying over the fire.
Eight helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft that were supporting ground crews were grounded and significantly impacted fire suppression operations at the Testalinden Creek and Wilson’s Mountain Road wildfires.
The Oliver RCMP is currently working with the BC Wildfire Service in relation to this incident.
All wildfires are considered to be “Flight Restricted” as per the Canadian Air Regulations. The area restricted is within a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level.
The operation of any aircraft not associated with suppression activities, including UAVs, within this area is illegal.
This aerial activity is dangerous, and poses a significant safety risk to personnel, especially when low-flying firefighting aircraft are present.
Transport Canada and the BC Wildfire Service explicitly prohibit the use of drones of any size near a wildfire. For more information, check here: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/general-recavi-uav-2265.htm?WT.mc_id=1zfhj#safety
Both of these fires remain active and the BC Wildfire Service asks the public and media to not enter areas that crews are working in, and particularly areas under Evacuation Order.
This is both for their own safety, and the safety of personnel.