From staff reports

Mark Twain National Forest’s spring fire season is underway. Already, two incidents of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, operating near firefighting operations have occurred.

“Flying a drone near a fire on Forest Service land puts the lives of our pilots and air crew at risk, so we are forced to ground aircraft; and our aircraft are vital to successful management of the fire,” said Fire Management Officer Jim Cornelius.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a temporary flight restriction (TFR) is often put in place around wildland fires to protect firefighting aircraft. No one other than the agencies involved in the firefighting effort can fly any manned or unmanned aircraft in such a TFR.

Anyone who violates a TFR and endangers the safety of manned aircraft could be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties which range from $1,000 to $25,000 in fines.

Even if there is no TFR, operating a UAS could still pose a hazard to firefighting aircraft and would violate Federal Aviation Regulations. The FAA has partnered with industry and the modeling community in a public outreach campaign called “Know Before You Fly.”

To learn more about how to responsibly fly a UAS, go to www.knowbeforeyoufly.org.

Please keep your drone on the ground and let firefighters and aircraft do their jobs. And, if you see someone flying a drone near a fire on the Mark Twain National Forest, report it immediately to Missouri-Iowa Interagency Coordination Center (MOCC) at 866-800-8595.