By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R- Apple Valley) introduced the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2017. This bill will institute a criminal penalty on anyone who launches a drone that interferes with fighting wildfires on federal property.
Over the past couple years, aerial fire-fighting operations have been suspended over multiple wildfires due to privately-operated drones entering the airspace over the fire. Firefighting aircraft were grounded because of the threat posed to low-flying planes by the drones. This prevented firefighters from keeping control of wildfires and, in at least one case, it led to thousands of additional acres being burned. Even more importantly, the suspension of air operations threatened the lives of firefighters.
The Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2017 would make it a felony to recklessly operate a drone that interferes with fighting wildfires on federal property. Violators would face a fine and imprisonment for up to five years.
Cook said, “Catastrophic wildfires are one of the biggest threats to life and property in the western United States. It’s shocking that despite aerial firefighting being repeatedly brought to a halt due to these reckless drone operators, there still is no law on the books against this behavior. These drone operators not only put the lives of aerial firefighters in jeopardy, but the loss of air support for fire crews allows wildfires to spread, threatening people and houses on the ground. Interfering with our firefighters is a serious problem, and this legislation will ensure that those who endanger our firefighters will face a serious penalty.”
A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.