Chris Angelo: Don’t worry if you’re seeing red

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When the Sand fire sparked up on July 22, it was the beginning of several days of devastation as the fast-moving fire scorched more than 30,000 acres on the edge of Santa Clarita Valley.

We all watched as hundreds of fire personnel worked around the clock to battle the blaze, and we’re thankful for their efforts.

Now that the smoke has cleared, property owners may have a few questions about what’s left behind.

One of the important tools for firefighters is Phos-Chek, a distinctive fire retardant foam that’s dropped onto burn areas from specially equipped aircraft such as DC-10s. Before eventually fading in the sunlight, it blankets everything bright red.

You might be asking yourself, “Is it harmful?” or, “Is it going to destroy my landscaping?”

The good news is, other than a bit of a mess, you don’t have much to worry about.

Phos-Chek is the brand name for a biodegradable fire retardant that’s been around since the early 1960s. It is about 75 percent ammonium phosphate, which functions as the active fire retardant compound and eventually acts essentially as fertilizer.

Phos-Chek is dropped onto areas of threatened vegetation before the arrival of an approaching fire.

While it can have a negative effect on fish when dropped over water, no serious lasting effects on vegetation have been found, other than some minor photosynthesis inhibition due to the dye.

As far as human contact, the biggest risk is inhalation hazard when preparing the mixture for deployment, or contact with the eyes or skin after it’s been spread.

Think about this: Over the years, fire crews have dropped literally millions of gallons of Phos-Chek on fire areas, and we have yet to see serious negative effects on plant mortality.

For those of us in the landscaping industry, that is very reassuring.

As property owners work to get things back to normal after this wildfire, the trained professionals on our Stay Green team are working with them to ensure their property is cleaned and cared for properly.

Because Phos-Chek can be a skin or eye irritant, it’s important to exercise care when cleaning up areas where it’s been dropped.

While on the subject of wildfires, I want to stress how important it is to make brush clearance a priority for your property. Stay Green provides brush clearance services for a number of clients, and I can tell you that we’ve seen firsthand what a difference can be made to protect a property by clearing overgrowth.

By clearing overgrown brush now, your property stands a better chance should a wildfire flare up.

And, as we’ve seen with the Sand fire, we could be in for a very difficult fire season.

Chris Angelo is CEO of Stay Green Inc. ( Founded in 1970 and based in Santa Clarita, the award-winning firm provides a variety of landscape design/build and maintenance services throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. His column reflects his own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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