Drone ordered to leave area of Anchorage wildfire

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage officials say firefighting efforts to combat a wildfire that threatened homes in the Campbell Creek area were almost halted when crews spotted a drone hovering over the area.

Firefighters were able to contain the 2-acre blaze Saturday, but not without almost grounding a helicopter working to fight the flames due to a drone.

“The drone issue is very concerning to us because it has the potential to completely shut down our firefighting operations,” said Anchorage Fire Department Wildfire Mitigation Specialist John See. “When our safety officer or the helicopter pilot identify a drone in the area, they are going to exit and wait until we can get the airspace cleared.”

When an unauthorized drone is in the area of a wildfire, Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry said federal policy requires all air resources to be “grounded for one hour until it can be confirmed that the drone is no longer in the area.”

Anchorage police tried to contact the unidentified owner of the unmanned aerial system via text and email alert.

“Citizens flying drones above the fire need to stop,” the public alert read. “You are interfering (with) the ability of firefighters to do their job right now.”

The drone eventually left the area, allowing the firefighting response to proceed from the sky, according to fire officials.

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