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Civilian drones hinder firefighting efforts in northern Idaho

"We are reminding the public that drones can put firefighters, homes, and resources at risk," Idaho Department of Lands Fire Bureau Chief, Josh Harvey said.

BOISE, Idaho — Use of civilian drones has been hindering firefighting operations in north Idaho, according to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL).

It is against the law to fly civilian drones near an emergency scene, like a fire, because it can interfere with firefighting aircrafts, delay firefighters working on scene and create major safety issues.

Ground crews fighting the Moyie Fire ended up waiting on aircraft support due to a civilian drone being flown in the area.

"Clearly, we needed to get air support for the firefighting effort as soon as possible and the drone use put that on hold," IDL Fire Bureau Chief, Josh Harvey said. "Unfortunately, this type of situation is not uncommon."

IDL Fire has been leading the response for the Moyie Fire, which started on Aug. 21, southeast of the Idaho Forest Group Mill in Moyie Springs. IDL ordered an aircraft to help assist local firefighters with the operations, but the aircraft was unable to immediately respond because of the civilian drone.

"The residents of approximately 50 Moyie Springs homes living near the mill were notified of the fire and the potential need for evacuation," Harvey said. "We are reminding the public that drones can put firefighters, homes, and resources at risk."

Once the drone was no longer airborne, fire crews were able to construct a fire control line with hand tools while multiple firefighting aircrafts attacked the fire from above. Crews were able to keep the fire at 3 acres.

IDL Fire worked in conjunction with the Boundary County Office of Emergency Management, Local firefighters from Moyie Springs, Curley Creek, and North Bench and the Boundary County Sheriff's Office. 

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