Dozens of people could have been killed as a result of drones flying dangerously close to firebombers in two separate bushfires over the weekend.
A drone was sighted metres from the rotors of a firebomber as it drew water from a lake at the Port Kennedy golf course on Sunday.
Onlookers crowded around the lake to watch the scene, along with the aerial firefighting crew, would have been killed if the drone and helicopter had made contact, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has warned.
In a second incident on Sunday, a drone was seen flying near the fire front of a bushfire in Australind where air crews were working.
Both incidents were reported to Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) with drone pilots facing possible fines of up to $9000 for breaking CASA Regulations.
Assistant Commissioner Gary Gifford said fire bombers fly at around 200 kilometres an hour, often manoeuvring in poor visibility, close to each other and other obstacles - such as trees, radio masts and power lines.
“While it might be tempting to record footage, drones pose a major safety risk to firefighting personnel in the air and people on the ground, who are often drawn to watch water bombers in action.
“If a helicopter goes down, the crew as well as any nearby onlookers will not survive,” he said.
DFES and DBCA operate fixed wing and rotary wing water bombing aircraft, with even the smallest drone colliding with or obstructing a bombing aircraft could have catastrophic results.
If you see someone operating a drone near a bushfire where aircraft is being used, report it to WA Police on 131 444.
For more information about laws surrounding the flying of drones near bushfires visit the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) website at www.casa.gov.au.