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DIGGING DEEPER: Federal authorities probe illegal drone use over Bighorn Fire

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TUCSON - Crews battling the lightning-sparked Bighorn Fire have been dealing with high temperatures, windy conditions, and other hazards.

They've also faced another threat - people illegally flying drones near the fire.

The Federal Aviation Administration has placed a Temporary Flight Restriction, or T.F.R., in the airspace above and around the fi

Firefighters tell News 4 Tucson, aircraft being used to stop the fire's spread generally fly at very low altitude, sometimes as low as 150 feet above the ground.

If a drone violates the T.F.R., it could result in a mid-air collision.

Since the fire started back on June 5, there have been three sightings of drones within that restricted airspace.

News 4 Tucson has learned the Forest Service has seized two of the drones, and the F.A.A. and F.B.I. are investigating the incidents.

Drone pilots who are caught violating the T.F.R. could face civil penalties up to $20,000.

Firefighters have a simple message for drone pilots who choose to illegally operate their aircraft near fires.

If you fly, we can't.

Paul Birmingham

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