LA County supervisors concerned about limiting use of fire retardant

An air tanker drops fire retardant on a ridge ahead of a fast moving fire in the Angeles National Forest August 30, 2009 near Acton.
An air tanker drops fire retardant on a ridge ahead of a fast moving fire in the Angeles National Forest August 30, 2009 near Acton. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday raised concerns about the federal government’s plan to reduce the use of fire retardant during wildfires.

The federal plan responds to a court order in a lawsuit that claimed fire retardant dropped from the air kills fish and pollutes the rivers and streams other animals use.

In a draft environmental impact statement, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to limit its use of retardant near waterways – unless human life is at risk or the terrain prevents other resources from reaching the fire.

The Forest Service still strongly supports the use of fire retardants. Officials say that in the last decade, only 1 in every 5,000 aerial drops has affected waterways.

L.A. County supervisors fear that the restrictions could hamper firefighting. Supervisor Mike Antonovich said it could allow fires to grow larger, faster. He referred to the 2009 Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest that burned 160,000 acres and killed two firefighters.

The supervisors have asked congressional leaders to closely examine the Forest Service plan.

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