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Just in time for fire season, judge says Forest Service must rethink its use of fire retardant

Fire retardant may soon be banned due its toxic effect on people and the environment
Fire retardant may soon be banned due its toxic effect on people and the environment
David McNew/Getty Images

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A federal judge wants the US Forest Service to revise its plan for the use of fire retardant, because it fails to take into account the impact the toxic chemicals have on the environment, and specifically on endangered species. Fire retardant is dropped from airplanes and helicopters to help put out fires, but when the chemicals miss their mark, the environment can pay a hefty price--in some cases huge populations of fish have died as a result. The Forest Service’s plan dictates that pilots refrain from dropping chemicals within 300 feet of a body of water, but the plan allows for exceptions if flying conditions are dangerous or if people’s lives or property are at risk. Judge Molloy wants the Forest Service to go back to the drawing board, more rigorously examine the environmental impacts the chemicals pose, and severely curtail its use. What impact does the ruling have here in California? It’s fire season. Will the Forest Service be hampered by this ruling, and are there any safer alternatives?


Andy Stahl, executive director, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, which brought the case against the Forest Service

Daniel Berlant, spokesperson, CAL Fire

Jennifer Jones, spokesperson, U.S. Forest Service