While battling a nearly 100,000-acre wildfire on Wednesday, a helicopter assigned to the Grassy Ridge Fire in eastern Idaho nearly collided with a privately-owned drone flying nearby.
The helicopter pilot, flying over the St. Anthony area, spotted the drone around 9:20 a.m. and was able to avoid a mid-air crash. Authorities are urging residents to keep their drones away from the fire, as a temporary flight restriction is in place for all non-authorized aircraft.
All aircraft in use for fighting the Grassy Ridge Fire were immediately grounded and will remain so, according to the Interagency Incident Management Team. The mandatory stop in aircraft use is hampering the fire suppression and repair efforts, until it can be verified that it’s safe for firefighters to fly again.
The drone “nearly cost the lives of three firefighters working this fire and a very expensive aircraft,” the agency said in a news release.
A photo of a white pickup truck speeding away from the area was taken by a flight crew member. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and law enforcement officers were dispatched to the area.
The Grassy Ridge Fire has 243 personnel on scene and is 97 percent contained as of Wednesday.
Thousands of acres in Idaho are still on fire and hundreds of firefighters are working to stop the blaze.