/ Modified jun 9, 2020 4:54 p.m.

Drone flights cost firefighters time in north Tucson mountain blaze

Drone operators could face prison time and fines if they are caught interfering with airborne crews.

Bighorn Fire 1 The Bighorn Fire burns in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness near Oro Valley on Saturday, June 6, 2020. The fire was caused by lightning on the evening of June 5, 2020.
Christopher Conover/AZPM

This story may be updated.

Firefighters battling a wildfire north of Tucson are reminding drone pilots to stay out of their way.

A drone interrupted firefighting efforts twice while teams tried to get the Bighorn Fire contained this week. Coronado National Forest spokesperson Heidi Schewel notes the incursions kept airborne crews grounded and allowed the fire to spread.

"You need to really think about the fact that a drone is an aircraft and there are federal regulations on how you need to use it when you're the pilot, because that's what you are," she said.

Drone operators who interfere with firefighters risk prison time and could pay thousands of dollars in fines. The Bighorn Fire was sparked by lightning last Friday. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire had burned more than four square miles.

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