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Supervisors adopt ordinance against drones near fires

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance 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. Ron Roberts was in Atlanta for the American Public Transportation Association exposition, but the four county supervisors present Oct. 10 all supported the ordinance.

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

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

“A drone can go into an engine,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. “It’s inappropriate for these people to take their drones and fly them during an emergency.”

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.

The prohibition applies to temporary restriction areas because the sheriff’s department may be operating manned or unmanned aircraft to monitor the area.

Duly authorized news media representatives are exempt unless a public safety official determines that the launching, landing or operation of a drone would interfere with emergency operations.


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