Martin Mars water bombers have been phased out of B.C. forest fire fighting operations in favour of much smaller aircraft.

Province defends shift from Martin Mars water bombers

New smaller planes more flexible in wildfire fighting, deliver water twice as fast

The provincial government is defending its unpopular decision to halt B.C.’s use of the veteran Martin Mars water bombers in favour of newer aircraft to fight wildfires.

The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch responded as campaigners closed in on a target of 20,000 signatures on a petition urging the premier to reinstate the 1940s-era amphibious plane.

Critics argue the province is spending more money to get less firefighting service than it had with the famous Martin Mars planes.

B.C. instead has contracted the use of four Air Tractor “Fire Boss” water-scooping amphibious planes from the Conair Group of Abbotsford for $2.5 million per season.

The much 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 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.”

Today there’s only one Martin Mars left in the province, owned by the Coulson Group on Vancouver Island.

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

The government statement noted the Mars engines are prone to breakdowns, while if one Fire Boss breaks down the other three can stay in service.

Separate planes can also be split up to attack multiple different targets at once, which officials say is particularly useful in fighting a series of fires after intense lightning.

The Mars, meanwhile, has a large drop pattern that the branch said can make it unsafe to use close to ground crews, who must stop work during a drop, risking the escape of a fire that could have been contained during the initial attack phase.

The province also uses various other air tankers and helicopters in fighting fires.

More than 100 helicopters are currently in use around the province.

The province brought in an additional 153 firefighters from Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick Tuesday, joining 350 other out-of-province personnel.

Air Tractor “Fire Boss” water-scooping aircraft now in use.

Just Posted

Oak Bay High junior girls claim city, Island volleyball titles

The team heads for provincials this week in Surrey to take on 32 other junior teams

CF-18 lowered the boom over Saanich Sunday

Plane was arriving in Victoria region from Boise, ID

Two significant thefts, and an accident seeking witnesses.

Oak Bay Police weekly media release for Nov. 13 to Nov. 19

What to expect at tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting

The Quest development, parking changes, banning plastic bags, and community engagement.

Countrified sound comes Upstairs to Oak Bay

Matt Patershuk and The Craftsmen perform Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre

Oak Bay light up steeped in tradition

Nov. 26 event kicks off Christmas in Oak Bay

Wet weather expected for much of coastal B.C.

The Weather Network is calling for up to 200mm of rain to fall in some areas of the South Coast and Vancouver Island

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult, died on Sunday at 83

Running back propels Spectrum Thunder into first Subway Bowl final

Brandon Robbins scores hat trick of touchdowns

ICBC overbilling for crash repairs not the problem, dealers say

Collision repair shops reject union claim of inflated costs

B.C. groups to address child sex abuse in sports

viaSport is organizing a full day of education in association with Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Coaching Association of Canada.

Report sets exercise guidelines for young kids, including ‘tummy time’ for babies

Kids aged one to four should get at least three hours of physical activity throughout the day

Stampeders return to Grey Cup with 32-28 win over Edmonton Eskimos

The Stampeders will face the Toronto Argonauts next Sunday in Ottawa for the title

Nebraska approves TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline

Nebraska’s Public Service Commission approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL route in a close vote

Most Read