Laser pointers are becoming a big problem for pilots in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Laser pointers aimed at the skies again, this time targeting firefighting pilots.  Kern County fire pilots experienced that distraction first hand during the Shirley Fire.  Luckily, no one was hurt, but it can cause aircraft to crash and land the user in jail.

While these small objects are useful and fun, they are often misused causing hazardous conditions in the sky and may result in some eye injuries.

Laser pointers are intended to highlight something of interest, but in the wrong hands may become a serious problem for pilots in the sky.

"Laser pointers can be used for many things, we know with teaching, putting them up on the board, giving directions, but they are really not to be used in the nigh sky towards pilots or any aircraft at all," said Sean Collins with the Kern County Fire Department.

Some laser pointers project a visible beam that scatters from dust particles along its path causing a temporary flash blindness at the intended target.

"The consequences could be fatal," he said.

In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration has reported incidents involving laser pointers in which low-flying aircraft were illuminated by lasers.  In Kern County, firefighters using night vision goggles above the recent Shirley Fire not only dealt with growing flames, but laser beams.

"It can actually give them momentarily blindness because of the light through the NVG equipment," said Collins.

Optometrist say the beams may cause damage to the eye if used in close range and for seveal minutes.  Kern County pilot Scott Beck has battled fires in the air for 15 years and told us earlier this month at a special fire training that things have changed.

"Increasingly busier.  Big fires, fast firest and more extensive flames," he said.

Firefighters say dealing with wild fires is enough hard work and laser pointers should not be used while crews are battling flames.

"Any which way, whether its our pilots or the law enforcement pilots or even civil aircraft, it's very dangerous and could momentarily blind somebody and could lead to a plane crash," said Collins.

As these devices become more available, the reports of their misuse grew causing the Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning of its potential hazard.


Carlos is on Facebook at


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