Paul Cook introduces legislation to ban drones during firefighting

By on July 14, 2015
Drones Banned in Yucaipa Fire Areas

In three weeks at three separate fires in the San Bernardino mountains, hobbyist drones have forced the suspension of aerial firefighting operations. The Lake Fire, the Sterling Fire and the Mill 2 fire all saw aerial operations suspended due to drone interference.

Now Congressman Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) wants to see any person who interferes with firefighting operations in such a way face criminal penalties.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard that aerial firefighting was brought to a grinding halt because a reckless individual decided to fly a drone over the Lake Fire,” Cook said. “Not only did it put the lives of aerial firefighters in jeopardy, but the loss of air support for fire crews allowed the wildfire to spread. Interfering with our firefighters is a serious problem, and this legislation will ensure that those who endanger our firefighters in the future will face a serious penalty.”

On July 10, he introduced H.R. 3025, the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015. The bill would make it a federal offense to launch a drone that interferes with firefighting efforts on federal lands. There would be an exemption made for firefighters and first responders who use drones in their firefighting efforts.

Those who are convicted under the Wildfire Airspace Protection Act would be subject to a fine and imprisonment up to five years.

On July 9 Cook voted on a bill that would protect national forests from catastrophic wildfires, like the Lake Fire. The bill, the Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2015, would allow the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to improve forest health.

“The Lake Fire reminded everyone what a serious threat wildfires are to our community,” Cook said. “This bill helps ensure that we have the funds necessary to fight future wildfires without taking vital funds away from activities that can prevent fires before they start. Thinning forests and removing dead trees are key steps toward preventing catastrophic wildfires like the Lake Fire. This timely bill will help our firefighters keep us safe and will save lives by helping to prevent future fires.”

Congressman Paul Cook represents California’s 8th District in the House of Representatives. The district includes Yucaipa.