College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ISU CCEE faculty member aids U.S. Forest Service in efforts to reduce effects of misapplied fire retardant (text-only)

Chris Rehmann, associate chair of undergraduate affairs and a water resources associate professor in Iowa State University’s Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (ISU CCEE) Department, is currently conducting research to aid the U.S. Forest Service in its efforts to reduce the effects of misapplied fire retardant.

“Even though the aerial drops have a small miss rate, the large number of wildfires still leads to many misapplications, with negative consequences for endangered fish throughout the western U.S. This work will be used frequently throughout several federal agencies to account for the effects of misapplications more accurately” says Chris Rehmann.

Rehmann is revising the tool that the U.S. Forest Service uses to predict the possible negative effects of misapplied fire retardant. Aerial drops, most commonly used when extinguishing forest fires, can have negative effects on fish in streams if the drop isn’t applied accurately. Rehmann explains that, though the number of misapplied drops are small, misapplications are still an issue due to the large number of wildfires blazing in the western U.S. during any given year.

Rehmann stresses that initial research efforts show that fish are exposed to the contaminant for far less time than previously assumed. Now, procedures for testing the effects of retardant on fish populations are being reassessed. Developing ways to gather data from misapplications in remote areas will be a challenge for researchers, Rehmann explains.