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Drone nearly crashes into helicopter fighting fire

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A photo of a white pickup truck was taken by a flight crew member after a drone nearly crashed into a helicopter Wednesday morning. | Fremont County Sheriff’s Office

DUBOIS — A drone nearly crashed into a helicopter over the Grassy Ridge Fire Wednesday morning and officials are trying to locate the operator of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Three firefighters were inside the helicopter around 9:20 a.m. when the pilot noticed the drone flying several feet away. He was able to take “evasive action and avoid a midair collision,” according to Norm Rooker, the spokesman for the Great Basin Interagency Incident Management Team.

Temporary flight restrictions (TFR) have been in effect for non-incident aircraft, including drones. The TFR hours were modified Monday from 24-hour restriction to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to allow area ranchers and others a window of time to safely search for missing cattle.

“The incursion into the TFR airspace nearly cost the lives of three firefighters working this fire and a very expensive aircraft,” Rooker says.

A photo of a white pickup truck speeding away from the area was taken by a flight crew member and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office is working to find the drone pilot.

All aircraft being used to fight the fire were grounded for 1.5 hours. Flights resumed around 11:30 a.m.

The drone pilot could face multiple federal charges.

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