High Park fire retardent may be killing wildlife, plants and doing little to stop flames

The fire retardent being dropped on the High Park blaze, and many other fires around the country, may be doing more harm than good, according Mead Gruver of the Associated Press. His story, which is running in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, cites new U.S. Forest Service rules limiting the use of the retardent slurry. The new regulations are in place to avoid instances such as the Oregon kill-off that Gruver describes:

“In 2002, a slurry bomber inadvertently dumped between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons of fire retardant on the Fall River about 25 miles south of Bend, Ore. The retardant immediately killed all of the river’s fish, an estimated 21,000 mainly juvenile brown trout, redband trout and mountain whitefish over a six-mile stretch(Gruver, Associated Press.)”

The ecological impact, though unfortunate, is, in my opinion, acceptable if the retardent helps to combat wildfires. But Gruver reports that it is currently uncertain whether the retardent does much to stop a raging wildfire.

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“‘The case for retardant use is not sufficiently strong to offset the environmental effects,’ Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, Ore., said. (Gruver, Associated Press.)”

The article is a good read, but is really quite depressing. After all, we’re left with only a few dismal options:

  1. The retardent works to stop a fire, but kills much of the ecosystem that it was meant to protect.
  2. The retardent doesn’t work and the land burns anyway.
  3. The fire never reaches the retardent and the first option’s outcome is repeated.