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The US Forest Service has commercial contracts for a fleet of 300 helicopters and more than 50 fixed-wing aeroplanes, which dump 40 million litres of fire-retardant sludge onto forest fires each year. But surprisingly there isn’t very good evidence that it works. A 2011 study found no correlation between the use of fire retardant and firefighting success rates. Once a wildfire is raging, airdrops seem to be more about public relations than effective firefighting. LV
Fire retardant is dropped near Clearlake, California, during the wildfires of August 2015