The RFS waterbomber drops fire retardant.
The RFS waterbomber drops fire retardant. Victoria Clarke

What you need to know about firefighting retardant and foams

THE NSW RFS drops fire suppressant retardants from aircraft during firefighting operations to help slow the spread of a fire.

Foams can also be applied by firefighters in controlling and containing a fire, and this helps to protect properties.

But there are safety concerns around the use of the substances. NSW Disaster Recovery has revealed some things to remember over the use of retardant and foams during firefighting operations.

Things to remember

  • It is coloured so firefighters can easily track where it has landed.
  • If fire suppressants come into contact with skin wash thoroughly with a gentle soap.
  • Fire suppressants that have landed on the ground will degrade with exposure to the sun.

What are fire suppressants?

  • Fire suppressants are chemicals that slow the spread or intensity of a fire. They help firefighters on the ground and are sometimes also dropped from aircraft.
  • Short-term fire suppressants are detergent chemicals mixed into foam, then applied using water.
  • Long-term fire suppressants such as fire retardant are chemicals that are mixed with water to form a slurry.

What are they made of?

  • Long-term fire suppressants such as retardants are essentially fertilisers (ammonium and diammonium sulphate and ammonium phosphate), with thickeners (guar gum) and corrosion inhibitors (for aircraft safety).

For current incidents or major fire updates visit