Drones Interfere with Fighting Alberta Wildfire

FORT MCMURRAY - An evacuation alert has been issued because of a wildfire near the small northern Alberta community of Saprae Creek Estates, southeast of Fort McMurray, as firefighters report drones interfering with their efforts.

The evacuation alert warns people living in the hamlet that the nearby wildfire could spread toward their community. Anyone in the area is being told to be ready to leave on short notice. "If you are in Saprae Creek Estates stay alert and follow instructions from emergency responders," the alert read.

Meanwhile, RCMP said drones flying near the fire are interfering with firefighting efforts. Mounties said the drones are grounding helicopters meant to be fighting the fire. "This behaviour is a major public safety concern as helicopters are a key element to combating these fires and keeping them under control," RCMP said in a release. "The public is asked to immediately cease flying drones near forest fire areas and in any area that may be in the flight path of these helicopters."

According to Canadian law, only drone pilots with permission are allowed fly over a forest fire or within 9.3 kilometres of a forest fire. Failure to comply can lead to fines and jail time.

Sunday evening, the Alberta Wildfire dashboard showed a 30-hectare fire burning out of control southeast of the community, just west of the Christina River.

Saprae Creek Estates is around 25 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray.

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