Baldivis bombers had to wait for drone

Jake DietschSound Telegraph
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Camera IconStock image Credit: Michael Wilson/WA News

Efforts to extinguish a suspicious fire in Baldivis were hampered by an illegally operated drone.

The bushfire started about 3.05pm last Wednesday, with police and fire officers now pursuing a possible arsonist.

It is believed the fire was deliberately lit in bush between Kerosene Lane and Fairchild Drive in Baldivis.

The fire burnt about 3ha of bushland before the all-clear was issued later that day.

According to the City of Rockingham, vital aerial support had to wait to enter the fire zone because of a drone in the area.

Water bombers are unable to fly when drones are near the scene of a fire due to the risk of collision.

Anyone caught flying a drone near a bushfire can face a fine of up to $10,500. Drone sightings near fires should be reported to WA Police and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said flying drones near a bushfire was unacceptable and heightened risks to people, property and the environment.

“Bushfires are not opportunities to take video or photos for social media,” Mr Sammels said.

“They are potentially life-threatening emergencies which must be respected as such.

“Unauthorised use of a drone in an active fire zone poses a safety risk to aerial assets, effectively preventing them from being involved, and therefore increasing the risks on the ground.

“This is a very serious matter so I implore all drone operators to keep away from fires and all emergency services.

“I remind everyone that the penalties for inappropriate drone use are severe.”

Strike Force Vulcan, which is led by arson squad detectives, is pursuing a potential fire-bug.

In WA, convicted bushfire arsonists face up to 20 years behind bars.

Anyone with information regarding the bushfire in Baldivis or who saw any suspicious people, or vehicles, in the vicinity of the bushfire, is asked to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or to make a report online at crimestopperswa.com.au.

Callers may remain anonymous if they wish.

Rewards of up to $50,000 are available for information that leads to the identification and conviction of an arsonist.

For more information on the use of drones around emergencies visit casa.gov.au/drones/rules/emergencies.

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