RCMP investigating drone flight that temporarily grounded wildfire air operations in Vernon | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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RCMP investigating drone flight that temporarily grounded wildfire air operations in Vernon

The Becker Lake wildfire above Vernon's BX neighbourhood, July 10, 2021.
Image Credit: TWITTER/BC Wildfire Service
July 12, 2021 - 4:35 PM

Helicopters and air tankers supporting firefighters on the ground in the battle against the Becker Lake wildfire near Vernon had to be suspended over the weekend due to a flying in the area.

A large drone was spotted by firefighters above the Becker Lake wildfire on Saturday, June 10 at around 4:30 p.m., according to an RCMP media release. Air operations were suspended for roughly an hour until it was safe for them to resume.

The restricted airspace around a wildfire is five nautical miles to an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level.

BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Madison Smith says drone flights are dangerous and interfere with critical firefighting operations.

READ MORE: Coldstream closes boat launches after boaters interrupt air tankers

“Delays of this type are preventable and they create additional, unnecessary challenges that compromise the suppression efforts of our firefighters to safely contain fire activity,” Smith says in the release.?
“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.”?

RCMP also say curious onlookers congested roads to and from the scene of the fire on both July 9 and 10.

As well, aircraft trying to scoop water from area lakes were disrupted by boaters, kayakers and paddle boarders.

“Due to the unpredictable nature of these events, resources may need to re-directed and rapidly deployed to multiple locations, and they need to be able to do that unimpeded,” Vernon RCMP media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski says in the release.

“The intentional grounding of aircraft engaged in the suppression of a wildfire could have disastrous consequences and we are continuing to investigate the incident,” Const. Terleski said.

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