British Columbia

Drones, boats slow down B.C.'s wildfire fighting crews over the weekend

Anyone caught operating a drone near fire control could face $100,000 fine, up to one year in jail, or both.

Anyone caught operating a drone near fire control could face $100,000 fine or up to one year in jail

Drones can cause serious and potentially deadly collisions with wildfire fighting aircraft. (Digital Timber web page)

British Columbia's wildfire service is once again issuing a plea for people to stop flying drones near wildfires to avoid crews having to stop their work.

The service has had to ground its crews at two wildfires over the weekend — the Kimbol Lake wildfire near Nakusp on Saturday and the Becker Lake wildfire near Vernon the same day. 

"If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft, the consequences could be deadly," the service said Saturday on Twitter.

The B.C. government toughened up its laws prohibiting the operation of drones near wildfires in 2016. Anyone caught flying one near a wildfire could be fined up to $100,000, be jailed for up to a year, or both. 

The restricted airspace includes a radius of five nautical miles around the fire and an altitude of 3,000 feet above ground level. 

Boaters impede work Sunday

It's not just airways that are posing problems for the wildfire service. On Sunday, crews were affected by boaters on Kalamalka Lake near the Becker Lake wildfire close to Vernon. 

The service said the boaters impacted the work of air tankers picking up water on the north end of the lake.

"This is dangerous both to people on the boat and to our personnel, and interferes with critical firefighting operations," the wildfire service said on Twitter.