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US Testing New Fire Retardant, Critics Push Other Methods

A plane drops retardant on a wildfire near homes Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Laguna Beach, Calif. U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)
A plane drops retardant on a wildfire near homes Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Laguna Beach, Calif. U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Boise, Idaho (AP) -- U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews.

The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons (190 million liters) of retardant for the first time in 2020 as increasingly destructive wildfires plague the West. It exceeded 50 million gallons again last year to fight some of the largest and longest-duration wildfires in history in California and other states. The fire retardant cost those two years reached nearly $200 million.