Most of the fires that have hit California in the past two weeks are now more than 70 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Firefighters continue to battle the blaze northwest of Los Angeles. It is reported that air operations in the fire zones are complicated by drones.
The Maria Fire that broke out on Thursday night, October 31, added a new chapter to the history of devastating California fires. People in some parts of the region received evacuation orders and were left without power. The situation forced California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency across the state.
The Maria Fire, which began near the cities of Ventura and Oxnard outside Los Angeles, was only 20 percent contained. The fire broke out at the top of South Mountain and destroyed more than 3,600 hectares.
According to Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Mike DesForges, two separate incidents of drone flights prevented water-dropping helicopters from rescuing a structure in the nearby city of Santa Paula. «The helicopters had to set down for 30 to 40 minutes each time. The drones are difficult to see, and if they strike one of our helicopters, they could cause it to crash,» DesForges explained. He said the efforts to contain the fire were proceeding smoothly despite the problems.
Another wildfire, the Kincade Fire that ignited in Northern California and destroyed more than 32,000 hectares in ten days, was 72 percent contained. Cal Fire information officer Scott McLean also mentioned drones in the fire zone and added that if those flying the drones were caught, legal action would be taken against those individuals.
«It’s a safety issue. If they collide with an aircraft, it could go into the windscreen or a motor or a fixed wing. It’s not a game,» McLean said.
In 2015, the California legislature ruled that firefighters could not be held liable for destroying drones that interfere with their ability to respond to an emergency.