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California Bill Would Ground Drones Near Firefighting Efforts

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California Bill Would Ground Drones Near Firefighting Efforts
California Bill Would Ground Drones Near Firefighting Efforts
California Bill Would Ground Drones Near Firefighting Efforts Kendall Bortisser, captain, Cal Fire Larry Hinman, professor emeritus of philosophy, University of San Diego

California lawmakers introduced legislation in Sacramento that would allow first responders to disable or damage drones that interfere with emergency operations.

"Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation,'' said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale. "Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area doesn't mean you should do it.''

Senate Bill 168, introduced by Gatto and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, would grant "immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations.''

Los Angeles County fire Inspector David Dantic declined to comment on the specific legislation, but said his agency's aircraft cannot operate safely if a drone is in the same airspace.

Drones forced firefighters to temporarily ground planes in the last week. They were fighting the North Fire at Cajon Pass and the Lake Fire, south of Big Bear.

Gatto and Gaines also authored Senate Bill 167, which would increase fines and introduce the possibility of jail time for drone use that interferes with firefighting efforts.

"We have ever-emerging technologies that can disrupt and disable a nuisance drone,'' Gatto said. "Our emergency response personnel shouldn't be at risk when coming to the aid of our communities.''