What do planes drop over wildfires to help put them out? Does it have any harmful environmental impact?



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    Aerial firefighting employs water and a variety of fire retardants to put out fires. Borate salts used in the past were toxic to soil and animals, but are now prohibited. Modern fire retardants such as ammonium sulfate or ammonium polyphosphate are less toxic and actually act as fertilizers to help with the regrowth of plants. Dropping large amounts of water or fire retardant can still be harmful to the environment, for example, by creating unnatural runoff. For this reason, thickening agents are often added to the water.

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