Man fined $10,000 for flying drone recklessly over National Park wildfire

Firefighters in silhouette in front of forest fire
(Image credit: Getty)

A man has been given a $10,000 fine for breaking two laws at once by flying a drone near a wildfire in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Rajwinder Singh has until June 8 next year to pay the penalty, which was handed down by Judge Jeffrey Champion under the Canada National Parks Act. Under the act, it it illegal to fly drones in parks without a license, and doing so can result in a fine of up to $25,000.

As the Canadian Press (via the Toronto Star) explains, it is also against the law to fly any aircraft, including drones, near forest fires without permission under Canadian Aviation regulations.

It's understandable that visitors might want to capture the beauty of National Parks from the air, but there are good reasons not to allow drones (which are also banned from parks in the US).

First of all, they're noisy, which can disturb other visitors and, more importantly, wildlife. According to BC Parks, one study found that the noise of a drone could send a bear's heart rate rocketing from 39bpm to 162bpm.

They also pose particular danger to birds, which may perceive them as a threat and can be injured by moving propeller blades. Raptors, including endangered species, tend to be particularly territorial, making them more likely to tangle with a drone.

Flying a drone near a wildfire risks disturbing emergency service trying to tackle the blaze. Emergency responders may be using their own drones to monitor the fire's progress and help search for missing people.

In September this year, wardens at Jasper National Park seized four drones that were being flown too close to the Chetamon wildfire, interrupting efforts to drop water onto the flames.

"This means that critical fire suppression operations were halted, in this case it was for approximately an hour, in the middle of the peak burning period, so we were no longer able to conduct our fire operations," said Parks Canada fire management officer Katie Ellsworth.

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Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.