Fire Retardant Again- on the Lower North Fork Fire

Lower North Fork Fire. PHOTO COURTESY JEFFCO SHERIFF

Previously, I remember Andy saying that fire retardant doesn’t really work and only feds use it. So I have been keeping track of people who use it (when I hear about it). And of course, I hear about this fire, since evacuees are staying at my house. From Bob Berwyn here :

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Lower North Fork Fire has grown to 4,500 acres and claimed a second life, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff, which is posting its latest updates on an emergency blog and via Twitter.

The sheriff’s office confirmed the second fatality at 11:15 a.m. and also said that 16 structures have burned. As of 9:20 a.m. containment was still reported as zero, but officials said they’ve fire fighting strategy has changed from point protection to active fire suppression.

More real-time fire information is streaming via Twitter at the #LowerNorthForkFire hashtag, though the JeffCo sheriff is urging people to be cautious when retweeting posts from unofficial sources.

The fire is burning in grass, shrubs and downed pine needles, along with standing ponderosa pine forest. Heavy tree canopies combined with high temperatures and a lack of humidity are all contributing to the volatile conditions.

Hot Shot fire crews are on the way from Utah, Arizona and South Dakota and air support is also being mustered, with two National Guard helicopters en route from Buckley Air Force Base to do water drops.

As of 12 p.m., a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) and a heavy P2V airplane started dropping fire retardant over the Lower North Fork Fire Zone.

5 Comments

  1. I’m thinking that you remember wrong, Sharon, w/r/t “I remember Andy saying that fire retardant doesn’t really work and only feds use it.” As far as I can tell, Andy never said only the feds use retardants, and never said that it didn’t work. What he may have said, as I have said is that Fire Retardant is not proven effective in fighting crown fires in standing timber. It is, by contrast effective in fighting ground fires. In the latter cases, FSEEE’s challenge to use of fire retardant is that its benefit must be weighed situationally relative to both potential environmental harm and safety in application (i.e. the potential for aircraft disasters) as well as cost to taxpayers. I followed your hyperlinks to check to see if I could verify your “remembering,” but did not. Did I miss something?

  2. Here is a quote from the post I liked to above:

    “In Florida and Texas, where forest fires are ubiquitous, retardant isn’t used because the federal government isn’t paying for it because they don’t have federal national forests,” Stahl said. “This is a federal boondoggle. State firefighting agencies without the federal treasury behind them never found retardant to be cost effective, and that the benefits outweigh the costs.”

    And this is a quote from a Missoulian story from the FSEEE website here:

    Andy Stahl, whose Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics filed the successful lawsuit, was skeptical of the results.

    “The final (environmental impact statement) acknowledges the Forest Service has no evidence fire retardant contributes to any firefighting objective,” Stahl said. “They made their decision on the basis of cherry-picking from a biased sample that fire managers claim retardant makes a difference.”

    Maybe Andy thinks that retardant doe work but the FS hasn’t actually collected evidence? Serving food at fire camp also “works” but we have no documented evidence. Perhaps we could do an experiment ;)? The italicized statement seems pretty direct to me.

    • The italicized statement seems pretty direct to me.

      It is pretty direct, but doesn’t say that “fire retardant” doesn’t really work. It says, rather, that the Forest Service has failed to produce evidence in the Fire Retardant EIS that it works (i.e. that it “contributes to any fire fighting objective”). There is a difference as explained by Andy in the follow-up sentence.

  3. Several site tests useing non retardent and fire retardent on the SAME fire under as close to the same conditions,as practical, Must be followed. Two or four aircraft of same type and liquid capacty is a must.To form better results even the pilots should switch loads as the drop operation will vary with the pilots style of aircraft operation. Analizing the results will not be a cake walk. Good Luck

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