It’s not often that the Alberni Valley makes provincial news but when your region is home to the biggest float plane in the world, it tends to make headlines.
It was an often confusing story. First there was no deal between Wayne Coulson and the province. Then there was a deal.
Then wait, no deal. And again, a deal.
The saga seemed endless and the feeling was only intensified by the blaze burning on Dog Mountain, mere kilometres from the bomber base on Sproat Lake.
Weeks of back-and-forth bickering between the province and Coulson ensued.
The province called the Mars clunky, old and limited in what it could do. Coulson reminded everyone of the massive 27,000 litre drops that the Mars was capable of.
And all the while, Dog Mountain burned in the background.
But none of it seemed real until on July 10, for the first time since the end of the 2013 firefighting season, the Hawaii Mars dropped a load of water on Sproat Lake.
It was dispatched to fires around the province but never did come to the 400-plus acre blaze on Dog Mountain.
The closest it got was Great Central Lake.
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, the Mars flew for 24 total hours. That added up to five missions split between four fires.
The plane also trained Chinese government pilots from the International Test Pilot School at the end of July, extending its provincial firefighting contract until the second half of August to make up the time spent training.
But the contract was never renewed and the Hawaii Mars was pulled back up onto land in September where its future remains uncertain.
Speaking in December, Coulson said that while he would talk to the province regarding the 2016 firefighting season, “it’s really hard to sell anything to anyone who doesn’t want to buy it.”