'If you fly, firefighters can't': Public reminded not to fly drones near raging wildfires

    Public reminded not to fly drones near wildfires after air support on the southern end of the Pole Creek Fire was grounded on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 when a drone was spotted in the restricted air space. (Photo: KUTV)

    (KUTV) — Authorities in Utah County are trying to track down a drone pilot who flew far too close for comfort to the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires on Wednesday.

    It happened around 2 p.m. in Zone 28, which is the southern end of the Pole Creek Fire, close to where it nearly touches the Bald Mountain Fire.

    Penalties for flying a drone in a federally restricted air space can include fines and even jail time.

    Police are taking the incident very seriously since that area, next to the fire, is considered a temporary flight restriction, or TFR, zone. If a drone is in the area, the helicopters fighting the flames have to move or cease operations altogether.

    Guy Francis is a drone pilot from Provo. He is not the pilot who grounded air support on Wednesday, but said he was up at his family’s property on Friday, which came within just a few feet of the flames.

    While up there, he decided to fly his drone, as he had done many times before.

    It had barely got up in the air when a warning message popped up, saying he was in a TFR and his drone immediately came back down. Not every drone is equipped with that technology, though.

    Francis urges other pilots to be careful because, when one drone user violates the restrictions, it hurts the hobby for everyone.

    If you know anything about who may have been involved in violating the TFR rules on Wednesday, you are asked to call authorities on 801-794-3970.

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