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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aspen Park in Comox is the latest school reporting a COVID-19 exposure. Screenshot, Google Maps
Fifth Comox Valley school reports COVID-19 exposure

Exposure at Aspen Park in Comox was reported for Feb. 22

Cumberland Brewery is looking to expand its patio space temporarily for the summer. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland Brewery looks for temporary patio expansion

Move would allow business to spread customers outside in summer months

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo
Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

A&W on Ryan Road confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 at their restaurant and temporarily shut its doors. Google Maps photo
Courtenay restaurant temporarily closed due to COVID-19 exposure

It’s the latest business in the Valley to be affected by the virus

The CSRHD board moved closer to passing a budget with a $4.4 million cut to the tax requisition. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona hospital district moves on budget with tax cut

At $12.6 million, budget requisition represents drop of $4.4 million for current year

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read