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Webinar Questions and Answers

2017 Aerial Fire Retardant, the Forest Service and You:

Fire Operations, Resource Advisors & Managing for ESA Species


Question and Answers:

Are there reporting requirements for use of foam or gel?  Yes, Chapter 12 of the RedBook outlines the requirements.  These can be reported in the Wildland Fire Chemicals Misapplication Reporting database (

Where can we find the BO?  The NMFS and FWS BO’s are available here:  FS BA’s can be located on the FS O:drive. (O:\NFS\Collaboration\FireRetardantEIS\2010 EIS Project Record) We recommend you obtain the exact folder and file location provided within the the Aerial Fire Retardant Implementation Guide as some folders may change over time and the Implementation Guide (located at the same address as above) is updated annually to reflect changes.   The O-drive is a FS access only file server.  For other agency inquiries, please contact Julie Laufmann or Dave Haston if you would like a copy. 

T&E species list are constantly updated - are there any newly listed species not covered by the 2011 BO?  Re-initiation of consultation for newly listed species or changes to species listings has been taking place since 2011. Species that occur only in one region should have re-initiation done by that region; species occurring across more than one region are being covered in national new BA this year.  Amendments and updates to the BA’s and BO’s are found on the FS: O-Drive.  Please refer to the Aerial Fire Retardant Implementation Guide for the most current folder location.  The Implementation Guide is updated annually and contains the most current updates.

Will these slides be made available after the presentation? Yes, these slides will also be available on the FS O-drive under the resources folder. 

Is there a 300 ft buffer near water ways for mobile retardant bases?  Yes, this buffer distance is a requirement within the mobile retardant contracts. 

Do you have any examples of appropriate disposal sites for excess fire retardant?  Excess fire retardant chemicals (gel or long-term retardant) need to be disposed of according to it’s intended use: for fire fighting. Not on roads, or  used as a fertilizer on tree plantations or given to farmers to apply on their fields.   If excess retardant remains, options include transfer to another base that can use the retardant, use via ground application, or dispose of at an appropriate waste disposal site.  These may vary based on location of the fire and ability of a disposal site ability to accept specific quantities.  Investigation into disposal should be considered and set in place during set-up of the location.  Some airbases may have a designated pre-approved area for jettisoning a load of retardant.  These should be identified during the event if excess mixed retardant is expected.

If a misapplication occurs on a private inholding is it reportable?  Reporting of misapplications into mapped avoidance areas (Forest Service) or waterways (Forest Service and DOI agencies) has been occurring since 2000.  This is outlined in the Interagency Policy in the Red Book, Chapter 12.  Other agencies or States have not entered into this agreement or policy and they do not need to report, however, they must follow their own state requirements associated with effects to ESA listed species.  Specific scenarios for the Forest Service related to reporting and ESA consultation requirements are also provided in Chapter 6 of the Implementation Guide.  Some species specific terms and conditions within the BO’s describe downstream effects from a misapplication if it occurs in water and each local forest needs to develop a process of access to private or state lands if possible.  It is acknowledged that Incidental Take Statements only apply to National Forest System lands and each situation may have site specific measures required.  The reporting and monitoring of all events helps better understand potential effects to species. 

I still see lumping of misapplications.  How are we getting the word to the folks on the ground that each misapplication needs to be reported separately?   Lumping of misapplications should not be done.  Each misapplication event needs to have its own record.  For example if a misapplication occurs on a stream reach of ~ 500 feet that is fine to combine, however, do not complete a misapplication reports that contains multiple events in one record. 

Are READs "qualified personnel" to check on AFR mishaps?   Not all Resource Advisors may be qualified to conduct the assessment; given that READS may be non-natural resource people. The assessment of the impacts to biological, botanical or cultural resources (if needed) needs to be done by a journey level person trained to conduct assessments for the resource affected.  The forest biologist, if contacted about the misapplication, can relay the information of the misapplication incident to the READ serving on the fire incident, but the READ should be completely aware of what they are looking for especially related to ESA species; thus,  a journey level biologist or botanist is required to complete the site specific assessment.

Identifying roles and responsibilities for tracking drops... is that best done out of the SO/Dispatch center, or out of the districts?  Each Forest needs to develop a system to track the use of fire retardants when used on an incident on the unit. On some forests, the Forest Assistant Fire Management Officer has that responsibility.  It should be done at the district level or at the beginning of the incident when possible.  It is recommended that the Forest have a process in place for the tracking as part of the pre-fire season, and also a system in place for when to conduct the 5% monitoring of fires less than 300 acres where aerial fire retardant is used and an avoidance area is mapped near by the incident. 

Do we report intentional misapplications differently?  All misapplications are reported the same way if accidental or using the exception.  There are no repercussions for reporting. If using the exception, it is recommended to document the rationale for using the exception, either by the agency administrator or the incident commander. The exception on national forest systems (NFS) land is that the use of aerial fire retardant is for alleviating the threat to public and/or fire fighter safety, not for the other exceptions found in the 2000 Guidelines, which apply to other federal lands.  The Implementation Guide Chapter 6 provides scenarios for multi-jurisdictions and multi-agency or multiple ownerships of how to determine use and report misapplications.

Can foams and gels be reconstituted with water.... and thus a huge concern with affected waterways/bodies of water (ponds,lakes)?  Generally no. Foams break down very quickly in the environment.  Gels may be reconstituted to a certain extent, but will never attain their original consistency.  They will also break down with exposure to UV, but they are not biodegradable (unlike what many of the companies will report).   We are currently testing how long different chemicals (but primarily retardants) persist in the environment.

Is the collector appropriate for mapping for retardant use?  The answer to this question is under investigation. 

Are there "avoidance areas" on non-forest lands?  The 2011 EIS/ROD covered only NFS lands and required the FS to complete avoidance area mapping.  Other agencies (DOI) may have avoidance areas (waterways with a 300 foot buffer per the 2000 Interagency Guidelines) but these areas are not on an official map layer. 

Has the consultation been re-initiated each time new species become listed post 2011 (for example, narrow-headed gartersnakes)?  The responsibility of implementation of the ROD is the responsibility of the regions and forest.  Since 2011, forests that have newly listed species that occur within a forest or region have completed their own re-initiation of consultation and rolled that document into the National BA and BO.  The process of completing this is outlined within Chapter 5 of the Implementation Guide in Chapter 5.  For wide ranging species covering multi-regions, the national AFR team is completing a BA this year and has provided support to the regions impacted to ensure the BA’s and BO’s are current. 

Why were intermittent waterways removed from the map in R5?  R5 has gone thru the removal of most of the intermittent streams due to most areas, these streams are dry most of the year.  There were some intermittent stream retained, for example, if they were located upstream of occupied aquatic habitat or designated critical habitat and it was left as a mapped avoidance area for additional protection, The process of removal of avoidance area is allowed within the ROD and the process of completing this is outlined within Chapter 2 of the Implementation Guide. The extremely wet winter we just experienced, likely many of the intermittent streams, will have water this year.  The direction is to avoid waterways and mapped avoidance areas.  If it has water regardless if it is mapped or not, it is avoided. 

Is the retardant being dropped Phos-chek?  Are there different formulations be used?  All of the long-term retardant is the Phos-Chek brand.  Phos-Chek has a number of different formulations in use on NFS lands, depending on the area/region.


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