Hughes commends Alaskans for not interfering with firefighters this fire season

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, Palmer, Alaska – More than 5 million acres have burned in Alaska so far this summer, with some acreage still actively burning. The lack of rain and higher than normal temperatures may result in additional fires breaking out before the season comes to a close. Considering the particularly challenging firefighting season this year, Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, wants to thank Alaskans for not flying their personal drones in fire zones, as recently occurred in the lower 48. “The safety of our firefighters is paramount. Interfering with flight missions by our firefighters puts lives and property at greater risk.”

Hughes encourages recreational operators of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to resist the urge to use their drones to film wildfires. “As enjoyable as it is to fly your UAS, avoid fire areas,” said Hughes. “You don’t want to endanger firefighters, cause aerial firefighting to be suspended, and be responsible for increasing the time it takes to contain a wildfire.”

Hughes reminds hobbyists that Alaska has plenty of airspace away from fires (as well as away from airports, crowds and roadways) where small drones can be flown safely. The UAS Legislative Task Force, co-chaired by Hughes along with Senator Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, developed “Alaska’s Know Before You Fly Drone Safety Guidelines.” The one-page flyer is available at “If you fly, we can’t” is another flyer available on the website. Responding to incidents in which UAS interfered with manned aircraft involved in wildland firefighting operations, the Federal Aviation Administration is supporting the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service in their simple message to drone operators: “If you fly, we can’t.”

Aviation is important in Alaska; promoting all aspects of safe operations is important to Hughes. Because many small drone users are new to the hobby and have little or no aviation experience, Hughes seeks to educate Alaskans on appropriate use of small UAS. “I’m proud of Alaskans’ responsible use of small UAS thus far. With 1 in 4 homes owning a drone, it’s important that we all know that fire zones are not recreational drone zones.”

Representative Hughes encourages every UAS pilot to visit to review the flyers from “Know Before You Fly” and the “If you fly, we can’t.”

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