Senator Gardner seeks to make flying unauthorized drones over wildfire a felony

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photo by Tara Walker Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White, Commissioner Kris Manguso, Commisioner Merrit Linke, Senator Cory Gardner, Commissioner Rich Cimino and Winter Park Mayor Jimmy Lahrman had the opportunity to discuss infrastructure, water concerns, healthcare and the possibility of a regional airport in addition to the discussion about drone legislation.
photo by Tara Walker Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White, Commissioner Kris Manguso, Commisioner Merrit Linke, Senator Cory Gardner, Commissioner Rich Cimino and Winter Park Mayor Jimmy Lahrman had the opportunity to discuss infrastructure, water concerns, healthcare and the possibility of a regional airport in addition to the discussion about drone legislation.

Senator Cory Gardner and his team visited Grand Lake on July 2 to meet with Grand County Commissioners, mayors and town managers. During the meeting, Senator Gardner praised the communication, coordination and speed with which the Grand Lake Golf Course Fire was handled, explained the proposed SAFER Act and discussed topics concerning Grand County citizens such as infrastructure, water rights, healthcare and more.

Senator Gardner heard about the difficulties encountered with personal drones during the recent Grand Lake fire and explained the Securing Airspace for Emergency Responders (SAFER) Act. The legislation being introduced in both the House and the Senate makes the unauthorized use of an unmanned Aircraft System over a wildfire a federal felony. The bill is being introduced by Senator Gardner (R-CO), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO)

“I’ve heard firsthand from the men and women fighting fires in Colorado about the problems and risks they encounter with unauthorized drones flying over wildfires,” said Senator Gardner. “It puts the lives of firefighting personnel at risk and enhances the threat to public safety by causing the grounding of aerial firefighting assets because the airspace over a fire isn’t secure. We need to put a stop to this and the SAFER Act can help do that by making it a federal felony to fly unauthorized drones over wildfires.”

Grand Lake Fire Chief Mike Long confirmed personal drones had caused issues with helicopter flight paths. Grand County Office of Emergency Management requested personal drones be out of the sky in and around the fire. They even took to social media to warn of the dangers.

Chief Long stated, “We utilized the sheriff department’s thermal imaging drone to detect spot fires and direct fire fighters to them on the ground. Used professionally, drones are very helpful, but personal drones are dangerous to firefighting efforts.”

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