NJ officials warn against flying drones over brush and forest fires
Drones are becoming a growing nuisance — and a danger to life and property, state officials said Wednesday.
The state Forest Fire Service issued a warning Wednesday asking people to not fly drones over brush and forest fires, citing recent incidents across the country in which drones reportedly hampered fire-fighting efforts.
The statement was released the same day that the Federal Aviation Administration considered industry recommendations to allow more drones to fly over people as long as the aircraft remain 20 feet above and 10 feet to the side of people, with stricter guidelines for larger drones.
A controlled burn earlier this year near Robbinsville Airport was endangered by a low-flying drone because it interfered with the airspace around the Mercer County airport and the fire, the service said.
In California, four drones were blamed for the spread of a wildfire, which torched two cars.
“While drone owners may not realize the potential danger the presence of these types of equipment during forest fires hampers our overall ability to protect life and property in our wooded areas," State Fire Warden Bill Edwards said Wednesday.
"A wide variety of aircraft, such as water-dropping helicopters, tanker aircraft and spotter aircraft, often operate above our actions on the ground. Use of drones in areas with aviation traffic is not permissible. In short, if you fly a drone near a wildfire, we can’t fly and put out fires.”
The Forest Fire Service said that using drones over an active wildfire and over national and state parks is illegal.
Dry weather has led to an early start to wild fire season in New Jersey with fires in Tinton Falls, Sayreville, Jackson, Glen Gardner and along the Garden State Parkway in Port Republic in the past week.