New, pinker retardant being dropped on California fires

New, pinker retardant being dropped on California fires

23 July 2015

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USA– CA- Air tanker pilots are using a new, pinker fire retardant to drop on California’s mountainsides and hilltops to slow down brush fires.

The latest version of the retardant was designed to be more visible to the pilots as they build lines around wildfires, like the one burning near Lake Berryessa.

Watch report: New fire retardant designed to be easier to see

The retardant is tested at the U.S. Forest Services laboratories in Missoula, Montana, and USFS scientist Shirley Zylstra said the change is subtle.

“Essentially, these retardants are the same.” Zylstra said. “The only thing different about them is the color.”

Near Lake Berryessa, the pilots connected pink lines along a hilltop ridge to slow the fire down. But connecting different drops has been harder in the past.

“One of the issues we’ve been having with the retardant over the last several years is that it’s not real visible to the pilots when they are up in the air,” Zylstra said.

In some areas, bark beetles have turned swaths of pine forests from green to rust, making it hard for pilots to differentiate where the older, rust-colored retardant had been dropped.

Researchers found changing the color slightly has made it easier for pilots to see what they are doing.

“It turned out that it’s very visible on the landscape, and the pilots loved it,”Zylstra said. “They can see exactly where they needed to drop it.”

The new retardant is also designed to ensure the color fades after a few months under direct sunlight so the brighter, pink retardant lines don’t stick around for five or 10 years like older versions did.

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