Air National Guard tanker drops fire retardant in Northeast Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An Air National Guard tanker dropped a load of fire retardant in Northeast Fresno Saturday, Cal Fire said.

A Cal Fire official confirmed that a C-130 air tanker heading to a wildfire in Tuolumne County made the drop around 5:30 p.m.

Witnesses reported cars and buildings from the River Park Shopping Center to as far as Kaiser Permanente Medical Center being peppered with the pink retardant.

It's unknown why the tanker made the drop.

Officials want people to know they are sorry. They say the retardant is not dangerous at all, but it certainly was an inconvenience for many in the River Park area.

Some took their cars to the wash while others wiped them down in the parking lot, but it's safe to say that everyone with red spots on their car was shocked.

"I had no idea what it was at first, the only thing I can think of was the trees, but apparently that's not the case, oh God," said Santiago Ortiz, whose car was hit. "Yeah, it will come off with a wash."

A customer told Starbucks employee Christina Levashoff there were red drops outside, but she wasn't sure how large the drop area was.

"It didn't click that, 'Oh my gosh this probably got to my car,' but it was weird seeing it everywhere," she said.

Air National Guard and Cal Fire officials confirm an Air National Guard MAFS-equipped C-130 was on its way to the Jacksonville Fire in Tuolumne County when it accidentally dropped fire retardant over Fresno's River Park area.

Officials say the plane, which took off from the Fresno Air Attack Base, returned immediately.

"We have all of our experts on it," Lt. Col. Michael Fugett with the Air National Guard said. "They're still trying to figure out what exactly happened and get a handle on it so they can fix it."

Cal Fire Capt. Jeremiah Wittwer says the retardant is a mild irritant and non-toxic.

"If you do have skin contact on it or any property contact, the best thing is to just wash it off," he said. "On your vehicles, mild soap detergent and water, you should be able to clean that off fairly easy."

"We apologize that this even happened," Fugett said. "It's a large inconvenience, and we realize that, recognize that."

Some people were upset, but most took it in stride. They know a simple car wash will probably do the trick.

"It's crying over spilled milk," Ortiz said. "I'll just have to wash my car, it needed a wash anyway, so what's the difference, you know?"

Officials provided information regarding the retardant, here, and how to make a government claim for any potential damages, here.
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