By Chris Spears

(CBS4) – It’s been a tame year for wildfires in Colorado with only a handful of relatively small blazes reported thus far. But we know in a state like ours where drought is a frequent visitor that large wildfires pose many dangers, and that’s why a recent field test in California is so educational to see.

(credit: CAL FIRE)

The test seen in the video above shows 9,000 pounds of fire retardant being dropped onto a large SUV from a low-flying aircraft starting 1:20 into the video. Within seconds the vehicle is crushed. Several cameras are used to capture the destruction from a variety of angles, including inside.

“Do you know how much weight is being delivered aerially over the top of you in a wildland fire,” is a question that Battalion Chief Justin McGough poses in the Cal Fire training video.

The damage to the SUV in this test video is astounding, considering the drop of retardant was small. Imagine being at the scene of a large wildfire where bigger planes can drop up to 170,000 pounds of retardant in a path up to a mile long and over 100 feet wide. While drops are not usually as low as the one that crushed the SUV in Cal Fire’s test, sometimes unexpected and changing conditions or terrain can cause drops to be lower than intended.

(credit: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)

The training video is an important reminder to not only fire crews learning how to stay out of harm’s way while fighting a blaze from the ground, but also to citizens who are told to evacuate and civilians working to cover large wildfires, including the media.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit’s Colorado Wildfires section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

Chris Spears


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