The Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) calls for the collaboration of pilots and private aviation companies, as well as drone pilots in Quebec, to ensure the safety of forest fire zones. The SOPFEU, which is already managing several fires at the moment, reminded that each year, the SOPFEU teams experience important security issues caused by the illegal intrusion of unauthorized aircraft (drones, planes, seaplanes, helicopters, etc.) in fire fighting areas.
A great danger for the pilots
Aircraft flying over a forest fire or seeking spectacular imagery have no place in this area and are at great risk. Tankers, other twin-engine aircraft and helicopters attempting to extinguish fires can be very numerous in a small area, in addition to being hidden by smoke. In addition, they use radio frequencies specific to SOPFEU, which are not published. The presence of unauthorized aircraft not only poses the risk of potentially fatal collisions, but can also seriously impair the work of firefighting crews. "Indeed, in an intrusion situation, if air combat teams cannot communicate with the ’foreign’ aircraft, all airplanes and helicopters in flight must cease operations while the situation stabilizes. The intrusion causes a significant delay in the fight against the forest fire, both on the ground and in the air, ”says SOPFEU.
Section 601.15 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) states that it is prohibited to operate an aircraft at an altitude below 3000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) above a fire zone of forest or the area five nautical miles or less from the forest fire zone. A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) will not necessarily be published, but the regulations on this airspace restriction must be observed at all times.
In addition, under section 601.16 of the CARs, Transport Canada can issue a NOTAM in order to further restrict the airspace around a forest fire. This is currently the case for the airspace around lights 326 and 329, in the Chute-des-Passe sector in Lac-Saint-Jean. Pilots should therefore remember to check NOTAMs before flying near a forest fire, in addition to avoiding flying in the airspace described above.
SOPFEU recalls that these security issues do not only concern pilots in flight, but also owners and pilots of drones. The organization therefore calls for the collaboration of all types of pilots to ensure not only their own safety and that of air and land combat teams, but also to ensure the preservation of Quebec’s forests. It is possible to consult the map of active fires (fire tab) and the NOTAM map (restriction tab - flight ban) on the interactive map of the SOPFEU website or via the SOPFEU mobile application.