In my father’s later years, he often shook his head and complained about the insanity of the world in which he lived. I remember putting it down to the fact that he was in his eighties. But now that I find myself a senior citizen, I’m beginning to understand his dismay. [And no, this column is not about the current political season. That would take pages and pages.]
Last week, one of my children told me a story that simply had me shaking my head in disbelief and asking, “Has common sense fled? Do people have so little concern for their fellow man that they make these incredibly stupid decisions? Is it selfishness?”
My older son and his family have a home in the White Mountains in a small Arizona town called Show Low. Although the fires in California are getting much of the media time, Arizona also has a fire that began on June 15 from unknown causes. As I write this, it has burned 42,000 acres or 67 square miles, and is 22% contained. Over 900 fire personnel have been working hard to contain this fire that threatens the Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low areas with a population of 15,000+.
The Governor of Arizona declared a state of emergency on Tuesday.
My son and his family were evacuated at one point as the fire came within ten miles of Show Low. They left, and then were allowed to return when the fire began to head in another direction. They have four elementary-age children, and after it was safe to return, they decided to take their children down to a lake, well outside of the fire zone, and let them watch the army helicopters pull water from the lake to fight the fire. They would be parked at a distance and would not hamper the efforts of the army personnel. I thought this sounded like quite an educational field trip.
However, when they reached the lake, they found out that the army personnel had been ordered to stand down because unbelievably stupid people decided to fly drones into the fire area, presumably to get pictures.
I simply shake my head in disbelief. Here we have firefighters and service personnel trying to save lives and property, and people are flying private drones into the very area where they’re attempting to stop the fire.
I thought, “Can this be true? Are people really that stupid and selfish? Do they have no sense?” So I checked online and found a news report from AZCentral.com that confirmed my son’s account. They are, indeed, that stupid and selfish.
People who fly drones where firefighters are working can be fined or jailed because drones can damage helicopters and airplanes and even cause collisions. Firefighters can’t work under these conditions and are often ordered to stand down, as they were in Arizona. Fighting a fire is dangerous enough, but losing one’s life because of a drone collision? Seriously?
According to the U.S. Forest Service, twenty-one cases of drones flying in fire areas were reported in 2015, and nine of those firefighting efforts had to be suspended. So far in 2016, nine reported cases have resulted in the suspension of three firefighting efforts, including the work near Show Low. These problems have also been reported in Utah and California.
In Utah, the county sheriff in Washington County offered a $1,000 reward leading to the arrest of people flying drones into the areas where they were trying to stop the Saddle Fire.
People flying drones into life-and-death situations—has common sense fled, or am I just another older person complaining about the direction in which the world is going?