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Supervisors adopt prohibition on drone flights near wildfires

REGION — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance Oct. 10 prohibiting the flying of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, near fires or near temporary area restrictions.

Four votes are necessary for passage of an urgency ordinance, which takes effect immediately.  Supervisor Ron Roberts was in Atlanta for the American Public Transportation Association exposition, but the four county supervisors present at the meeting all supported the ordinance.

“It’s important that firefighters, emergency responders, have the ability to respond to a fire without interference,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “It’s a huge public safety issue.”

The assessment that a high risk of wildfire exists led to the urgency ordinance. On Sept. 26 the supervisors passed an urgency ordinance which allows temporary area restrictions to be designated in the event of protests and includes the prohibition of items that might be used as weapons, and the restrictions on drones also include areas subject to temporary area restrictions.

The ordinance prohibits the launching, landing or operation of unmanned aircraft systems within three miles of a temporary area restriction area or a fire reasonably visible from the location at which the person launches, lands or operates the drone or when a public safety official determines that the drone would interfere with emergency operations.

“The simple act of operating a drone makes it unsafe for firefighting aircraft to fly,” said Ron Lane, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for the county’s Public Safety Group.