San Bernardino County approves rewards to stop drones during fires

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted to approve rewards in an effort to ground drones during fires.

There is no questioning the soaring popularity of drones. But for firefighters, they're becoming a big concern.

In the past five weeks, the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to call off water drops at three different fires, including the North Fire on the 15 Freeway through the Cajon Pass, because unmanned aircraft were spotted in the area.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to authorize three separate $25,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people flying drones in the Lake Fire, the North Fire or the Mill-2 Fire.

Fire officials have a campaign with the saying, "If you fly, we can't." Pilots say drones pose a serious danger. If a drone were to hit an engine on a firefighting aircraft, it could cause a deadly crash.

Though drones aren't specifically written into any current law, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos made it clear - interfering with firefighting efforts falls under two misdemeanors, each punishable by six months in jail. But it'll be a completely different story if lives are lost.

"This isn't a threat. I just want you to know that if an intentional act of a drone was to cause one of these wonder men and women fighting fires to go down and be injured or worse scenario killed or another civilian on the ground, we will prosecute you for murder," Ramos said at a Wednesday news conference.

There is speculation that the operators of these drones are not aware of the safety guidelines, though fire officials say it just comes down to common sense.
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