Fire crews have encountered at least three unauthorized aircraft while battling the 70-acre Shawnee Peak wildfire in Park County, a U.S. Forest Service news release said.
As of Tuesday morning, the blaze was 60% contained, with more than 65 firefighters working to contain and suppress the flames sparked by lightning, the Forest Service said. No structures were threatened at the time.
Overhead, another problem arose for crews: unauthorized aircraft entering the restricted airspace over the wildfire.
A small single-engine airplane that flew through the area earlier this week was the third violation since the fire began Aug. 26. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction for the blaze beginning Aug. 27.
“Unauthorized aircraft pose a high risk of a mid-air collision that would compromise the safety of firefighters in the air and on the ground, which is of grave concern,” read the release.
Firefighters continue to make great progress with the #ShawneePeakFire. It is currently at 70 acres and 60% contained. Read more on the PSICC Fire Blog at https://t.co/6Vth5nGY8s. pic.twitter.com/2Nj2TK8VuQ
— USFS_Pike&San Isabel (@PSICC_NF) September 1, 2019
When aircraft illegally enter the restricted zone, helicopters shuttling firefighters, hauling cargo and conducting reconnaissance over the fire must return to a helipad until the airspace is cleared again.
“In the case of extracting an injured firefighter, this could mean the difference between life and death,” the release read.
Click here for the Federal Aviation Administration’s map of restricted airspace over Shawnee Peak.
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