Idaho man witnesses fire retardant up close and personal

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by Stephanie Zepelin

KING5.com

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 6:33 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 18 at 6:32 AM

ADA COUNTY -- An Ada County man has a lot of cleaning up to do after his property was hit with a load of fire retardant. On Tuesday night, fire crews dropped the fire retardant from planes to help control the Highway 16 Fire.

Eric Brundy saw the fire from his house located off of State Highway 16.
 
"We had been watching it for about an hour, and we've had fires up here plenty of times," said Brundy.

Brundy thought his house was safe, so he stayed outside, but then a plane flew right over him dropping the retardant.

"The first one was far out there. It was the field spraying and I got a couple sprinkles on me," Brundy said. "I thought it was raining at first. They made a couple other passes, two more passes and those were just walls of red. It was interesting, never experienced anything like it in my life."

Before he had time to worry about the red stuff covering his house, the fire moved toward his shed.

"I screamed for my brother and we see the fire and we all realize it's time to get things out of the house," Brundy said. "We were no longer safe, and get everything out. We made about three trips, grabbed everything expensive and got out as quick as possible. By the time we left, we were hacking and coughing, we could barely see."

At 11:00 Wednesday morning, Brundy returned home to a new coat of red over his car, house and anything else sitting outside.

"Fire retardant is mostly a phosphorus-based fertilizer-type substance mixed with water, and then there's some clay to make it red so that pilots can see where the drops are," said Dave Olson, Public Affairs Officer for the Boise National Forest.

Olson said fire retardant is important in slowing down a fire's growth, and that pilots try to avoid dropping on people or their possessions.

"This is a very heavy material when it comes out of the plane and so it has a lot of impact when it hits something," Olson said. "So from a safety standpoint, they're going to try to drop this retardant in an area that doesn't have property or humans in the area."

Olson said if you or your stuff get covered in fire retardant, wash it off right away and it should be fine.

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