JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Firefighters discovered a partially melted drone inside the burn zone of a 30-acre wildfire. West Metro Fire tweeted out a picture of the drone as a reminder of the dangers they can pose at fires.
The device, measuring about a foot in size, could have caused firefighters to push back operations if they spotted it in the air. Firefighters picking up hoses on Tuesday discovered the drone along the fire line.
Lt. Brendan Finnegan believes the drone was airborne during the fire but said it would’ve been hard to see with the sun setting and heavy smoke.
“Where it was found on the ground, it had melt marks, the rotors were melted in certain spots but the rest of the ship wasn’t burned through and it was on burned ground,” said Lt. Finnegan
Drones can interfere with fire operations on the ground and in the air. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, more than 15 drones have affected the ability to fight fires in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota and Montana. In several cases, the drones forced firefighting planes to be grounded.
Air operations were not used during the South Table Mountain Fire because it was getting dark out. A lightning strike caused the fire.
“They don’t realize the potential risks, that they’re putting our firefighters and eventually our citizens lives in danger,” said Lt. Finnegan.
Denver7 found a similar drone online, retailing for about $40.
"I doubt that the kid or adult whoever it was, had no clue what they were doing and were not following standard procedures," said Jacob Hadden, with a drone racing club called The Other Guys.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Interior announced a new system aimed at preventing drone operators from entering airspace in a wildfire zone. A prototype warning system would provide real-time alerts to drone operators and create a virtual barrier.
“This pilot project makes initial wildfire location data publicly available to commercial mapping providers that support UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) operations, alerting drone pilots before they enter air space over an active wildland fire,” said Mark Bathrick, director of aviation services for the Interior’s Office.