The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP are conducting an investigation after reports of a drone being flown in the vicinity of the Becker Lake Fire caused fire suppression efforts to be suspended on Saturday.
On both Friday, July 9th, and Saturday, July 10th, 2021, first responders had to deal with both curious onlookers congesting access and egress routes from emergency scenes, as well as the disruption of aircraft attempting to draft from local bodies of water, states Constable Chris Terleski, Media Relations Officer for the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP. 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.
On Saturday, July 10th, 2021, fire department personnel on the ground spotted a large drone in the sky above the Becker Lake Fire in Vernon. The discovery of the drone at approximately 4:30 p.m., was relayed to the incident commander who suspended all air operations for a one-hour period until they could be safely resumed.
This type of activity is dangerous and interferes with critical firefighting operations, states Madison Smith, BC Wildfire Information Officer. 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.”
The restricted airspace around a wildfire includes a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and to an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level. 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.
The intentional grounding of aircraft engaged in the suppression of a wildfire could have disastrous consequences and we are continuing to investigate the incident. adds Terleski. We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing efforts of both wildfire and municipal firefighters who are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of our communities. The outpouring of appreciation for our first responders has been amazing, and very much appreciated, but we want to remind the public that one of the best ways you can support our first responders is to stay clear of emergency scenes, and avoid any actions that may jeopardize their or your own safety.