A social media campaign imploring the provincial government to rehire the Martin Mars water bomber for aerial attack firefighting has spread like, well, wildfire. As of mid-week, more than 18,000 people had signed the petition, and a PEAK FM Facebook status about the petition garnered the radio station nearly 130,000 views.
The City of Port Alberni holds its iconic water bombers close to its heart, and there is no denying the sting the city felt when the Coulson Group’s contract with the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations wasn’t renewed last year. It was indeed a blow to watch the distinctive red and white aircraft pulled out of the water a year ago for what could be the final time.
It is difficult to watch places like Kelowna under threat from wildfires knowing there is a perfectly serviceable aircraft sitting idle that could help. Especially when one looks at the numbers: $750,000 for a season’s service with the water bomber, or $3 million and counting for the replacement aircraft.
The provincial government maintains the water bomber represented less than one per cent of its total firefighting assets, and that the new aircraft are doing the job they are supposed to. Meanwhile, the Hawaii Mars sits idle.
In the end, we know the government will rule with its pocketbook. But the thought of the red and white Hawaii Mars roaring overhead for its signature pass over the city on the way to a fire? Well, that tugs at the heartstrings.
— Alberni Valley News