Disaster Zone

Are All Fire Retardants Equal?

Fire season is here with a vengeance!

by Eric Holdeman / July 10, 2017

There are over 50 wildfires burning in the Western states. High temperatures, low humidity and winds are the firefighters' worst nightmare. While there have been no catastrophic losses — yet, it is shaping up to be a very active wildfire season. British Columbia to our north is also having an active fire season.

Recently I was provided with a marketing piece of literature for FireIce which is a form of suppressant and short-term fire retardant. As emergency managers we are not directly involved in the air attack of fires. My experience is in coordinating National Guard air assets to dump water buckets on fires. 

It is important to remember that like disaster operations, firefighting is based on having a superior logistics system for personnel and material that can be then effectively deployed. Fire retardant has to be delivered to a site, it has to be mixed and loaded on a plane. Interestingly, you can get FireIce in the color blue, in addition to the normal orange color that we see being employed on fires. 

One other side note, recreational drones are becoming more of an issue for wildland fires and interfering with air operations. Typically all air operations are suspended when a drone is spotted. One of the things that will be needed is civil penalties and perhaps even some threat of jail time for violators. This type of punishment will help to get the word out to owners and operators who are not "thinking" before launching their drone. Another helpful item would be for agencies to do pre-emptive use of news releases as wildfires develop to inform the public about the safety risks of hobbyists employing drones near an active wildland fire fight.