Idaho wildfire managers reported the morning of July 28 that unmanned aircraft—drones—have been spotted twice near the still-raging Pioneer Fire, threatening air operations.
The 12,869-acre Pioneer Fire north of Idaho City has forced fire officials to shut down a 25-mile stretch of Idaho 21. Firefighters said they've been successful in keeping the wildfire from the Elk Creek drainage, the main water source for Idaho City. The blaze, which sparked July 17, is keeping nearly 1,000 firefighters busy and the fire is about 35 percent contained.
Hampering those efforts, officials said, were two reports of drones in the wildfire area, one on July 22 and another July 26.
“We cannot operate either helicopters or fixed wing air tankers if there are immediate reports of a drone in the fire's proximity and we will immediately terminate operations until the area is cleared,” said Bill Hayes, Incident Management Team 3 Air Operations Branch Director. “Pilots may not see a drone and if they strike one it could down an aircraft or significantly damage one.”
Officials say no one other than firefighting agencies can fly any manned or unmanned aircraft in what is known as the "Temporary Flight Restriction Area."
The arrest came after election auditors in Nez Perce County and Asotin County in Washington discovered Christopher Billups, 62, of Lapwai, appeared to have voted at a polling site on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation after already mailing in a ballot to Washington.
"When a girl has gone through what my client went through, standard operating procedure for a case like this could have seen all of her medical records of the past five years put into the public record. That's a horrifying prospect for anybody, particularly a 20-year-old girl."