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Flying drones near California wildfires prohibited by FAA

The recent outbreak of wildfires ravaging Southern California has made for some stunning imagery. Across the web, photos and video capturing these unruly blazes have gone viral depicting what is often a breathtaking scene. These once-in-a-lifetime shots can be enticing for amateur and professional photographers alike, and you may think this is a perfect occasion to use a drone for aerial shots. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disagrees.

On Sunday, December 10, the FAA issued several temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) for areas surrounding the Southern California wildfires. These TFRs apply to all aircraft--including drones--that are not a part of firefighting efforts.

Why the need for TFRs?

In the eyes of the FAA, these restrictions are being issued for a good reason. Drones can pose a serious safety threat to firefighting crews, and in some instances, even halt operations altogether.

In July, an Arizona man was arrested for flying his drone too close to the Goodwin Fire, which burned across 18,000 acres of the state. Arizona authorities charged the man with endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft after firefighting efforts were grounded and valuable time was lost.

Officials said the man put 14 aircraft and their crews at substantial risk by flying his drone above the fire. By issuing TFRs, the FAA is aiming to avoid this sort of incident in California.

Violating a TFR can lead to severe penalties

With the potential risk of pausing firefighting operations, TFRs come with harsh penalties for those who violate them. Flying your drone above the designated wildfire areas can bring fines of up to $20,000--a steep price tag for getting a snapshot.

As the Southern California wildfires continue to rage--in some cases spreading over nearly 200,000 acres--it's important to keep drones grounded and out of the way of firefighting efforts.

What changes in drone flight have you noticed since the spread of the wildfires in Southern California?

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