The State Senate today approved bipartisan legislation that Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) co-authored with Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) and others to make it a serious state crime to fly a drone over a wildfire. Recent incidents have endangered the lives of firefighters and highlighted the need for the state to act.
“While drones offer new opportunities for society, there must be reasonable limits to protect firefighters and other first responders,” said Bates, who is a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. “This bill strikes the appropriate balance between public safety and property rights by protecting our first responders when they are responding to an emergency.”
Senate Bill 168 would grant civil immunity to any emergency responder for damage to a drone if the drone was interfering with the delivery of specified emergency services. The bill would also make it a crime to recklessly operate a drone in a manner that prevents or delays the extinguishment of a fire. Violators could be punished by imprisonment in a county jail of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The bill will next head to the State Assembly for its consideration.