California issues $75K bounty for drone pilots interrupting firefighters

It seems several instances recently of private drones preventing firefighters from dealing with California forest fires have frustrated authorities enough that they're issuing rewards for information on the pilots. San Bernardino County officials are now offering $75,000 in total to catch the drone pilots involved in obstructing three different fires — $25,000 for each incident. The drones not only got in the way of firefighters' aerial efforts, but actually delayed their response in stopping the fire, in turn causing more damage.

The latest incident took place earlier this month, when firefighters say they encountered five hobby drones flying over the wildfire, presumably capturing footage of all the damage below. The firefighters' planes and helicopters were forced to circle the area, hoping the drones would leave, eventually having to land and resulting in a 20-minute delay.

This wait allowed the fire to spread further, even hitting the Interstate 15 freeway and setting cars ablaze. Luckily no one on the ground was harmed or killed, as they abandoned their vehicles in time. However, the authorities said that the drone pilots could be held responsible in the event of any injuries, as their actions prevented firefighters from doing their jobs.

The California officials say they will set up a phone hotline for people to call with information about the drone pilots. The $25,000 per incident certainly show how serious this is being taken, especially since drones don't just obstruct firefighting, but are a serious hazard to helicopters and planes and to the lives of the pilots.

VIA Engadget