State Sen. Pat Bates Fights Drones (The Flying Kind)

Which way to the fire?
Which way to the fire?
Photo by flickr user Andy Simonds

Just to be clear, the drone ban being sought by state Sen. Patricia Bates has nothing to do with limiting the floor speeches of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). No, the Laguna Niguel Republican has instead co-authored a bill that would make it a crime to fly a drone over a wildfire.

Along with co-authors Sens. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), Bates claimed Wednesday SB 167 is necessary to keep drones from causing crashes with emergency vehicles such as helicopters or planes that fight fires.

"Firefighters face tremendous risk and the last thing they need is to have a drone get in their way and potentially cause a catastrophic crash of public safety aircraft," Bates said. "That is why we need to make it crystal clear that flying a drone in a fire zone is unacceptable and will be strongly punished. A person's hobby should not put the lives of our firefighters at risk."

Currently, it is a misdemeanor to interfere with firefighting efforts, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine. Under SB 167, violators could face a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

And who knows if they'll give the flame-scorched drone back?

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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