Retardant and Water Drop Safety

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Nov 2021


Retardant (jell, foam), paracargo, and water drops on a fire are routine events. However, there are risks associated with these missions that can pose serious threats to personnel and equipment. Consider the following for all drops you are coordinating:

  • Be aware of the location and flight patterns (final approach, drop zone, exit) of aircraft during drop operations.
  • Ensure you have positive contact with the pilot before the drop.
    • Clear all persons, vehicles, and animals from the danger zone prior to the arrival of the aircraft.
    • Beware of streamers or parachutes that do not open.
  • Personnel can be injured by the impact of material dropped by aircraft. Clear personnel out of the target area before the drop is conducted. If an individual is caught unaware in a drop zone:
    • Hold hand tools away from your body.
    • Lie face down with hardhat in place and head toward the oncoming aircraft.
    • Grasp something firm to prevent being carried or rolled about by dropped liquid.
    • Do not run unless escape is guaranteed.
    • Get clear of dead snags and tree tops.
    • Be aware of rolling debris below the drop site in steep terrain.
  • Use caution when working in an area covered by retardant. Surfaces are slippery.
  • Wash the retardant off your skin as soon as possible to prevent irritation.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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