The Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department wants people to know about a recent Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] e-mail on drones near wildfires, according to Sheriff's Department spokesman Dick Blust.

He says the following e-mail was recently sent out by the FAA:

“There are lots of great places to fly your drones, but over or near a wildfire isn’t one of them. In fact, drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution.

“Here’s why it’s important: Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as air tankers and helicopters, fly at very low altitudes, just a couple hundred feet above the ground and in the same airspace as hobby and recreational drones. This creates the potential for mid-air collision that could seriously injure or kill wildland firefighters in the air or on the ground.

“As a result of unlawful drone operations near fires this year, fire managers have temporarily grounded all firefighting aircraft on several occasions for safety reasons. Shutting down firefighting operations could cause wildfires to become larger and can threaten lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources.

“The bottom line is ‘If you fly, we can’t.’”