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RCMP investigate drone flying over Becker Lake fire near Vernon

The drone caused fire crews to suspend airplanes working to suppress the blaze
A helicopter drops water on the Becker Lake fire in Vernon, above Pottery Road, Saturday, July 10. (Tyler Martin/Instagram tylermartinphoto)

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP is now investigating reports of a drone being flown in the vicinity of the Becker Lake fire on Saturday.

Fire crews spotted the large drone about 4:30 p.m. in the sky above the fire near Vernon. Air operations for fire suppression efforts were suspended immediately, for one hour until they could be safely resumed, due to the drone.

According to Const. Chris Terleski, media relations officer for the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, on both July 9 and 10, first responders had to deal with curious onlookers congesting access and routes from emergency scenes.

Crews also had to deal with the disruption by boaters to aircrafts attempting to draft water from the lake.

READ MORE: Becker wildfire closes Coldstream trail

Madison Smith, BC Wildfire information officer, said the restricted airspace around a wildfire includes a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level.

“Any operation of a drone within that space qualifies as interference with fire control and you could be fined up to $100,000 and face a year jail,” she said.

While Terleski added that the intentional grounding of aircraft engaged in the suppression of a wildfire could have disastrous consequences and police are continuing to investigate the incident.

READ MORE: Evacuation alert extended for Becker Lake Fire in Vernon


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Jen Zielinski

About the Author: Jen Zielinski

Graduated from the broadcast journalism program at BCIT. Also holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and sociology from Thompson Rivers University.
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