B.C. playing with forest fire

Province should put Mars waterbombers on standby, Chris Alemany says.

To the Editor,

At Monday’s Port Alberni City Council meeting fire Chief Tim Pley informed the community that the BC Forest Service had lodged an urgent request for PAFD to be put on standby in case it is needed ‘for initial attack’ on fires in and around our area.

This leaves the very real possibility of PAFD services being called away to a forest fire, leaving local response to homes much slower, or that a forest fire that occurs nearby will not get any initial attack response at all if the PAFD is busy elsewhere.

I will not venture to guess which would be worse.

We were warned months ago that this could be a bad fire season and we are seeing that now. The forest service is quite obviously under resourced.

Now our community is on the hook including precious taxpayer resources in fire equipment and we are potentially left defenceless from forest or home fires.

And yet there the Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars waterbombers sit in drydock.

Last month 19,205 people around BC, including almost 2500 residents of Port Alberni, signed a petition for the Mars to be returned to standby duty. They are two of the most formidable initial attack fire bombers ever conceived, both certified and ready to fly for many more years, and one recognized as one of the most advanced urban interface fire suppressors in the world.

Not only should we bring back the Mars, in light of obvious and continuing changes in B.C.’s climate we should be permanently beefing up our fire preparedness, mitigation, and resources.

The current system seems complete ad-hoc, patronage based, and ultimately dangerous and costly. We are playing with fire.

Chris Alemany,

Port Alberni