Long-term fire retardants have seen very little innovation over the past 60 years. The exact recipe has been modified, but the primary active ingredient, ammonium phosphate, is still the same chemical that our firefighters currently rely on to keep wildfires at bay. Through decades of environmental research, we’ve learned a lot about ammonium phosphate since it was first evaluated for fire retardancy in the 1970’s. We’ve learned that it’s highly toxic to fish. We’ve learned that it stimulates algae blooms and accelerates eutrophication. We’ve also learned that it preferentially fertilizes invasive, flammable plant species. Some might look at these externalities and accept them as a necessary compromise of effective wildfire management, but at Fortress we saw an opportunity to reinvent how we fight wildfires.
The results are in. Burn tests done by the United States Forest Service (USFS) have demonstrated that Fortress fire retardants are more effective than conventional ammonium phosphate.
Fortress fire retardants pull moisture from the air and distribute it to fuel. This passive re-hydration mechanism forms an exceptional fire-fuel barrier, and is also what makes our retardants exceptionally durable.
Even before burning occurs, Fortress fire retardants respond to increasing temperatures by absorbing heat and releasing water, effectively cooling wildland fuels and lowering the probability of ignition.
Unique to our magnesium chloride formulations, Fortress fire retardants release ions that neutralize hydrogen (H•) and hydroxyl (OH•) combustive free radicals, directly interfering with the combustion process.
Charring begins at lower temperatures when plant matter burns in the presence of our magnesium chloride fire retardant. Early charring effectively shields foliage from encroaching flames, depriving the fire of its fuel.
Where ammonium phosphate requires significant raw material usage and fossil fuel input to manufacture, the magnesium chloride that we use in our retardants is harvested from the sea using renewable solar and wind energy.
When applied in the wild, fertilizer-based retardants promote the growth of invasive vegetation that makes fire-prone lands even more flammable over time. Fortress corrects this longstanding issue with chemical formulations that do not stimulate new plant growth.
Fertilizer-based fire retardants are directly responsible for accelerated microbial activity and algae blooms, leaving waters uninhabitable to many native species. Fortress fire retardants do not contribute to nutrient pollution or freshwater eutrophication.
The aquatic toxicity of fertilizer-based retardant has caused several population-level fish kills over the years. Fortress fire retardants have consistently demonstrated lower levels of fish toxicity in the lab, in the field, and in the Forest Service’s product qualification testing.
Data from the lab has shown that magnesium chloride solution lowers smoke emissions when applied to wildland fuels, where conventional ammonium phosphate fire retardants actually increase smoke emissions and put more carbon into the air.