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California offers $75,000 bounty to catch drone pilots who slowed wildfire efforts

California offers $75,000 bounty to catch drone pilots who slowed wildfire efforts

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California is aggressively pursuing the people responsible for three recent incidents in which drones interfered with firefighters as they worked to extinguish devastating forest fires. The unmanned crafts forced responders to ground the small air tankers that play a critical role in putting out fires; authorities say the delays directly resulted in more damage and destroyed property. Over 20 cars went up in flames during a blaze in mid-July. "We want to know who was flying drones, and we want them punished," said Jorge Ramos, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. "Someone knows who they are, and there is $75,000 waiting for them."

A $25,000 reward is being offered for each instance of the careless piloting, so you'd have to know who flew all three drones to collect the full sum — but even a single payout may help officials find responsible. In the July incident, five recreational drones got in the way of firefighters, who had no choice but to divert their planes and briefly land before the drones finally moved along. The fear is that a drone could make contact with a plane's wing or propeller and lead to a catastrophic crash.

The unwelcome run-ins are happening so frequently that officials are now willing to hand out pretty huge sums to shut down irresponsible drone operators. "The Board of Supervisors decided asking is no longer enough," said the statement from San Bernardino County. "Interfering with fire-fighting operations is a criminal offense." Both county and state lawmakers are actively pursuing new legislation targeted at people who obstruct wildfire