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U.S. Forest Service tests new fire retardant

A slurry bomber dumps the fire retardant between the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire and homes on the westside of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Eddie Moore
/
AP
A slurry bomber dumps the fire retardant between the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire and homes on the westside of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier.

The Forest Service says tests started in summer 2021 are continuing with a magnesium-chloride-based retardant from the company Fortress.

Fortress contends its retardants are effective and better for the environment than products offered by Perimeter Solutions, the Forest Service’s longtime supplier. That company says its ammonium-phosphate-based retardants are superior.

The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons of retardant for the first time in 2020 as increasingly destructive wildfires plague the West.

Watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews.