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Wildfires Devastating The West. TFRs Everywhere.

With conditions being perfect for fires, pilots need to be on heightened alert.

Firefighting Airplane
Stock photo.
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As you no doubt know, wildfires are ravaging the U.S. West, with big blazes from Colorado to California, up to Washington State and everywhere in between. So pilots should be on high alert for TFRs, and in this case, you might not want to rely on your device to keep you in the clear, and that’s because conditions are changing so rapidly that it’s hard for anyone to keep up.

The fires are the result of several perfect-storm factors, record-setting heat, dry conditions, high winds and tens of thousands of lightning strikes that are stoking new fires so fast that it’s impossible for crews to stay on top of them all.

What this means to pilots should be clear to us all: Stay away from places where firefighters are working active blazes. Most of those no-fly zones are designated with areas of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), but they’re popping up fast, and we’ve heard reports of the communications systems being so overloaded that TFRs are taking a while to get into the system.

A good bet is to just avoid those areas suffering fires, giving them a wide berth, but this is hard to do, as new infernos are starting with no advanced warning and limited ability for authorities to respond with anything near the level of resources needed. So talk with controllers whenever you can so they can keep you on  top of the airspace they’re working and also so that they know where you are. 

There are currently around a dozen TFRs scattered about the Western U.S. and particularly the Northwest part of the country. Here’s an up-to-the-minute listing of them, and we won’t characterize them, as it is likely to change substantially in the time between when we publish this and you read it. So check out the FAA’s TFR Map.

Also, the FAA is making it abundantly clear that it wants no drones anywhere near the firefighting operations, and it warns of harsh penalties for any remote flyers who push their luck, which is one way the agency can help protect the pilots who risk it all to fight these fires. 

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