06 August, 2014: It’s something we never get tired of seeing… captivating images pouring in through the media every summer of red fire retardant being dropped with extreme precision on the frontlines of wildfires. For over 50 years that same red liquid has been considered the backbone of the US Forest Service’s wildfire fighting efforts. Now, under a new firefighting policy signed by President Obama we’re seeing more and more retardant being used, which has us wondering, “What is that red retardant?” 


The red liquid is called PHOS-CHeK Long-Term Retardant, made by ICL Performance Products in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Turns out, it is is basically a fertilizer. Being primarily phosphorus based, the retardant actually helps stimulate plant growth while protecting organic materials from burning. The way it works is once the liquid is sprayed onto a dry leaf, for example, the leaf will blacken and singe into ash when exposed to fire, but it will never produce a flame. This is what allows firefighters to form instant firebreaks over tough terrain. 

Red Retardant

In recent wildfire industry news, ICL has just launched a new retail version of the Long-Term Retardant, designed for a do-it-yourself style application. For the first time ever, homeowners can now purchase the Long-Term Retardant to add to their defensible space strategy. This new formula does not contain the traditional red dye. Instead it is in its natural state, a pale green liquid, nearly odorless, that turns clear when sprayed. With access to a Hudson sprayer, the retardant can be used for creating a perimeter firebreak, for protecting outbuildings and fences, and for spraying the base of trees up to 10 feet from the ground. Once applied, the retardant provides up to six months of fire protection. And the retardant has no shelf life, as a preserving agent in the formula allows the liquid to store indefinitely. 

The new home friendly retardant has since found its way into the product lines of a few wildfire protection companies. One such company called FIRE WEST, out of San Diego, CA, has the new version of the retardant available on their website. They are selling it in concentrate form in quick-mix ¾ gallon jugs, along with other structural fireproofing products. Each jug is said to make exactly 5 gallons of the retardant when diluted. 

FIRE WEST owner, Marc Fraser, explains, “The new retardant from PHOS-CHeK fills a gap in our market that was greatly needed. Now, homeowners can create a firebreak in minutes without having to clear down to bare soil.” In addition to their product line, FIRE WEST also offers a mitigation service to help homeowners who lack fire insurance reduce the organic fuels on their property and finally become eligible for much needed insurance. 

As drought grips our Western States for the third year in a row and as firefighting protocol continues to call for red retardant on the frontlines, perhaps it’s the “green” retardant that winds up captivating you this summer wildfire season. For more information on PHOS-CHeK’s newest fire retardant, or to learn more about organic fuels mitigation visit firewest.net or call 855-856-FIRE.