A DC-10 is dropping an alternative to retardant on wildfires in Australia

dc-10 tanker 910 dropping gel

Above: Tanker 910 dropping on the Londonderry Fire in New South Wales. Screen grab from the video.

On November 14 we posted a video of Air Tanker 910, a DC-10, dropping what we thought was water on the Londonderry Fire in New South Wales where it is working on a contract during the Australian summer.

We heard from John Gould, Business Development Manager at 10 Tanker Air Carrier that operates the three DC-10 air tankers, letting us know that it was not water:

Thanks for your great coverage on fires in Australia. In the video you posted yesterday, the DC-10 wasn’t dropping water, but instead a “gel” made by Blaze Tamer. We’ve been asked to drop it on about 50% of the fires we’ve had in NSW this year, and our pilots seem to like it, mostly in terms of the consistent pattern they’re getting on the ground when compared to water.

A few other air tankers have the ability to drop gel including the reborn 747 and the Martin Mars.

The BlazeTamer website claims it is a “short-term fire retardant”.

Here are some excerpts from their site:

BlazeTamer380™ is especially beneficial for any type of air attack, including helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. It is well suited to provide accurate and reduced drop zone footprint by reducing drift caused by strong winds by up to 71%.

The unique formulation of BlazeTamer380™ creates an excellent fire break by penetrating Class A materials to increase the moisture content of the fuel, thus inhibiting ignition.

A revolutionary fire fighting weapon BlazeTamer380™ guarantees safe handling for fire fighters and is proven harmless to humans, animals and vegetation. BlazeTamer380™ is not a Gel or a Foam and it is totally noncorrosive. (includes Intergranular testing for the aviation industry.)

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9 thoughts on “A DC-10 is dropping an alternative to retardant on wildfires in Australia”

  1. “FireTamer380 isn’t a cross linked polymer (gel)” then what is it? In the early 2000’s CDF started using gel products at several of their air tanker bases for evaluation. The results from those participating companies was outstanding. The gel products work well and in certain applications was superior to retardant. Interagency adaption and contract complexity eventually extinguished the use of gels.

    1. BLAZETAMER380 is an Elastomer and not to be confused with a “Gel”. A Gel holds many times its own weight in water. Elastomers bind water molecules together, creating a ‘blanket’. An Elastomer/BLAZETAMER380, increases the surface tension of water and by design, coats the material. It’s slippery nature facilitates the penetration into deep seated material absorbing energy until the water content has been exhausted.

  2. The product there describing sounds familiar to FireIce but if it works well and it helps the financial side of the fire plus it’s better for the environment that’s good all around another tool to add in the tool box.

  3. Just wondering how the pilots can see where to drop the next line without coloring like “classic” retardant.

    1. There are three types of cooling or holding products used by fire fighting aircraft. All are water based and chemically enhanced, foam, gel, and retardant. Foam (wetting agents) are used to cool while penetrating into the forest fuel. Gels have the properties of limited holding and work through absorbing heat, cooling. Gels lack the chemical reaction for extinguishment, as with retardant, when exposed to fire. Both foam and gels are direct attack chemicals, on the fires edge. Retardant which has a commercial rust (red-pink) to give it visibility which is used by air attacks to produce a indirect continuous chemical fire line, if needed. In order for the rust to work it must bond to another chemical as a “carrier”, like a gum or polymer thickened slurry (retardant). Foam and gels don’t usually have enough of these bonding properties to hold color. Gels consist of tens of thousands (per gallon) of small water filled reservoirs. The dry form of cross linked polymers can be found in baby diapers and dry land farming of row crops like corn or soy. Interesting enough if the “reservoir” dries out over time it will rehydrate (fill) with the next rain. Gel 101, hope it helps. jc

  4. Blaze Tamer gel is a linier polymer. The difference to the other gels is that the linier gel works better to be used as a firefighting solution. The biggest difference between the two gels is a cross linked polymer is ment to clump together, where the linier polymer is ment to drip more (best way to describe).

    The gel technology is a very misunderstood technology. It’s too bad that the firefighting industry doesn’t look at technology better.

    1. Gels will be the way of the future. The time to get these incorporated is now. This game has been going on for far too long. How can these gels not be at least the subject of some serious testing and evaluation? We all know the answer to that! Once the masses are educated, the ignorance removed and the ability to test fairly without manipulation and interference, they will clearly see that there is more than enough room for both LTR and gels in the strategies and tactics employed to combat and successfully mitigate wildland fires. They are designed to do different things but the industry insists on comparing them on the platform in which LTR performs better.
      Gels, when used in the proper application will significantly enhance the application of water in a direct attack application.
      Without the incorporation or water enhancing gels into the IC’s toolbox, I am left wondering whose needs the fire fighting agencies are fulfilling.

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