A Montana state bill is slated to add criminal penalties for flying drones over wildfires. The proposed bill also saw support from law enforcement and firefighters this week.
Sen. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula, himself a former wildland firefighter and air attack supervisor, stated that Senate Bill 219 will, in addition to previous legislation that allowed assessing civil penalties, will make flying a drone over an active fireground a criminal offense, punishable by up to six months jail time and fines of up to $1,500 per offense.
“We work really hard to fly safely,” Curdy told the Senate Natural Resources Committee. “We work really hard to keep our firefighters safe on the ground, and I think this bill intends to move it in that direction.”
The bill has gathered widespread support from law enforcement and firefighting agencies. Dozens of drone incursions are reported throughout the United States each year, some shutting down aerial firefighting operations until it can be verified that the drone is no longer a threat to aircraft.
While federal penalties are available, this bill will ensure that state-level prosecution is possible for drone incursions.