Wildfire: Red slurry’s toxic dark side

The hundreds of thousands of gallons of red slurry that air tankers are dropping on Colorado forests to shield mountain houses from wildfires has a downside: It is toxic. Laced with ammonia and nitrates, it has the potential to kill fish and taint water supplies.

Federal authorities say they’re implementing new rules prohibiting application of fire-retardant chemicals within 600 feet of waterways. Air tanker pilots and crew commanders now are required to carry maps that identify sensitive terrain — such as areas where greenback cutthroat trout and Pawnee montane skipper butterflies are monitored as sentinel species.

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Hayman fire, 10 years later: More forests being allowed to burn

A decade-long move toward prescribed fires and forest-thinning has not reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfires along the Front Range, federal and state authorities say.

And firefighting commanders increasingly favor letting more forests burn — if people aren’t threatened — instead of mounting all-out assaults. They say it’s smarter to let some fires burn naturally because this can help prevent huge fires that ruin forest seed stocks and watersheds.

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