Forest Service to Release Environmental Assessment for Fire Retardant

July 4, 2007

 The US Forest Service is expected, possibly as soon as mid-July 2007, to release its environmental assessment for aerial applications of fire retardant.

The environmental consequences of annually spreading about 20-25 million gallons of the red-tinted retardant to suppress US forest fires have been questioned for many years. Previous story: TipSheet of Aug. 9, 2000. There still is high public interest in the issue, says USFS spokeswoman Allison Stewart. However, the USFS held no public meetings as it prepared the environmental assessment, instead relying on an Internet-based forum to receive comments until October 31, 2006.

The agency's July 28, 2006, summary of "Key Points" strongly emphasized the benefits of using fire retardant, although the agency said that, beginning in 2007, it would no longer use retardant that contained one chemical, sodium ferrocyanide, that has long been found to cause some environmental problems. The agency also notes that pilots try to avoid spreading retardant near waterways. However, doing so is extremely challenging in the chaotic conditions of a fire.

The environmental assessment should be available either here or here. Media contacts: Allison Stewart or Joe Walsh, 202-205-1134.