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Helicopter, drone nearly collide while fighting Barth Fire in Caldwell County

The drone reportedly came within feet of the aircraft.

CALDWELL COUNTY, Texas — While fighting the 150-acre Barth Fire in Caldwell County on Friday, a helicopter reportedly nearly collided with a drone, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

"Pilots have no way to detect a drone or know there is one present in the airspace until they see it," said Texas A&M Forest Service State Aviation Manager Jared Karns in a release. "Suppression aircraft can respond to wildfires quickly, increasing the likelihood that a new ignition remains a small, manageable wildfire. Utilizing aircraft greatly enhances the state's firefighting efforts, but they have to be able to fly in a safe environment."

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, drones can be a major safety hazard for those fighting wildfires, and can even cause fatal accidents. Drones can even cause air operations when fighting the blaze to be delayed or suspended because of this risk, allowing the wildfire to grow.

Because of this risk, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts what activity can take place in spaces around wildfires. These restrictions are known as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) and are requested by the Texas A&M Forest Service to ensure firefighters have a safe space to operate in and extinguish the blazes.

It was also noted that it's a federal crime to do things that will interfere with the firefighting aircraft that are present, regardless if restrictions are established.

"These aircraft are responding to incidents every single day," said Karns in the news release. "Please avoid wildfire areas to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft and ground crews."  

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