Thousands sign petition demanding Alberni's Martin Mars be put back into aerial firefighting service.

Public implores province to reinstate Martin Mars

Port Alberni's Chris Alemany who created the petition has delivered it to B.C. Premier Christy Clark's office in Kelowna.

British Columbia is burning up in the hot, dry weather the summer has delivered, but the iconic red and white Martin Mars waterbomber is absent from the skies. And a Port Alberni man is hoping a public crusade will change that.

Chris Alemany started an online petition at change.org asking the provincial government to contract the Martin Mars for five more years “to protect B.C.” By Wednesday, he had collected more than 18,000 signatures.

Alemany intends to deliver it to Christy Clark’s riding office in Kelowna on Thursday afternoon.

Martin Mars owner Wayne Coulson, of Coulson Flying Tankers, said the Hawaii Mars could be operational in eight to 10 days, if the government reinstated the aerial tanker.

“It’s unfortunate (the aircraft) is on the ground and not out there helping,” he said.

He would consider a contract if the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch approached him, he added. “Our goal is to support the firefighters and the people fighting fires in the province.”

Martin Mars

The provincial government is defending its decision to halt B.C.’s use of the Martin Mars in favour of four newer Air Tractor “Fire Boss” water-scooping amphibious planes from the Conair Group of Abbotsford.

The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said the smaller aircraft are more flexible because they can operate from more than 1,700 lakes compared to just 113 with the Mars. The new planes can also drop water, foam or retardant on a fire, with an ability to deliver 3,025 litres on a seven-minute turnaround, compared to 19,000 litres with the Mars on a 19-minute round trip.

The branch said in a statement the new Fire Bosses delivered fire suppressant twice as fast during the recent West Kelowna fire—586,000 litres in 11.3 hours—as the Martin Mars dropped during the 2003 Kelowna fire.

“Over the past six weeks, the new Fire Boss aircraft have actioned more fires than the Martin Mars did in six years.”

According to the province, it offered the firm an “as when needed” contract for the 2014 fire season but got no response.

Coulson said he did not apply for the contract because “they had said they didn’t want the aircraft.

“When a customer doesn’t want the product you have to move on,” he said.

“The Mars is an excellent firefighting tool. We have to live with the decision by the government.”

The firm received unanimous support from the Union of B.C. Municipalities last fall, which passed a resolution imploring the government to reinstate the contract.

Beat Felber and his wife Claudine, visiting Vancouver Island from Riehen, Switzerland, stopped in Port Alberni intent on seeing the Martin Mars. Felber had been to Vancouver Island 25 years ago and just missed seeing the water bomber demonstrate a water drop at a Victoria Airshow. He was disappointed that the Martin Mars wasn’t on the water last week.

“They belong in the air,” he said.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

— With files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press

Just Posted

Former Port Alberni grad pitches to Dragons’ Den

Justin Atterbury is the co-owner of Taynton Bay Spirits in Invermere, B.C.

Repairs made at Port Alberni’s ice rink

City waiting on Technical Safety BC approval to re-open

Port Alberni man charged with multiple thefts from vehicles, lockers at Echo Centre

A Port Alberni man will appear in court on Wednesday accused in… Continue reading

Truck goes down embankment after collision on Alberni summit

Highway 4 was closed in both directions Monday afternoon

Alberni adventurers talk about trekking Vancouver Island’s ‘Secret Coast’

Windh will share photos and stories from the expedition at Alberni Valley Museum

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Birthday boy: Pettersson nets 2 as Canucks beat Predators

Vancouver ends four-game winless skid with 5-3 victory over Nashville

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

One dead after fiery crash in Duncan

A man has died after a fiery motor vehicle collision Monday night,… Continue reading

VIDEO: Don Cherry says he was fired, not sorry for ‘Coach’s Corner’ poppy rant

Cherry denies he was singling out visible minorities with his comments

Most Read