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LA TIMES: Retardant drops are our best defense against wildfires. Reducing them would be disastrous

APRIL 10, 2023 3 AM PT

To the editor: For nearly half a century, I’ve led suppression efforts on many of the state’s largest wildfires, and few resources have proven more effective in saving lives, communities and ecosystems than aerial fire retardant. (“Aerial fire retardant drops are attacked as ineffective and environmentally harmful,” March 29)

There are countless examples (and much data) that verify this truth, but none more poignant than the aerial retardant drops made during last year’s Route fire in Los Angeles County by the Quick Reaction Force (QRF).

A first-of-its-kind partnership between fire agencies and Southern California Edison, the QRF is the world’s only fleet of firefighting helicopters capable of dropping retardant at night. A recent cost-benefit analysis focusing on the Route fire indicates this saved lives, communities and millions of taxpayer dollars.

As wildfires become more prevalent, retardant has never been more critical, and it has no substitute — not water, fuel breaks or ground crews. Prohibiting its use will harm forest conservation, threaten endangered species and impede our ability to save lives.

Brian Fennessy, Irvine

The writer is chief of the Orange County Fire Authority.

LINK: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/story/2023-04-10/retardant-drops-are-our-best-defense-against-wildfires