The T-137 Fireliner carries out a series of drops as part of its FAA testing in July. PHOTO COURTESY DAVE CIBLEY

Martin Mars unlikely to see firefighting action in Port Alberni

Water bomber ‘isn’t anywhere ready’ for fires burning in its Vancouver Island backyard

With two fires currently burning in the Alberni Valley, there are calls to bring the Martin Mars water bombers into action.

But Port Alberni is unlikely to see the vintage aircraft in the sky anytime soon.

Wayne Coulson, CEO of Coulson Flying Tankers, confirmed on Thursday, Aug. 9 that the Mars “isn’t anywhere ready” for firefighting action.

Read: Martin Mars waterbombers firefighting days are past

The Hawaii Mars has not flown since 2016, when it was damaged at an air show, and the Philippine Mars is no longer in active service. Coulson had announced in May that his company was trying to find a new home for the water bombers, as Coulson Air Tankers was focusing on its new fleet of air tankers. Coulson’s five air tankers and helicopters are currently in the U.S.

Although airtankers and helicopters are a highly visible part of wildfire response, they are only there to provide support to the crews on the ground, according to BC Wildfire Service. Fire retardants, foams and water are used to cool fires and slow their progress, rather than put them out.

At full operational readiness, the BC Wildfire Service operates a fleet of 16 airtankers and eight “bird-dog” planes that direct the group to the most effective and safe drop locations. The fleet also includes four water bombers that are capable of skimming up to 3,025 litres of water in 15 seconds.

Coulson Aviation is currently working on the B737 Fireliner—the first firefighting Boeing 737 in the world. The tanker is parked in Port Alberni, waiting on Federal Aviation Administration approval. Once it is approved, says Coulson, it will go on contract in California with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Just Posted

Delays on Highway 3 at Kootenay Pass

DriveBC reminding travellers the area is an active wildfire zone and warning of fallen debris.

Kootenay fires grow — more evacuation alerts

Syringa fire prompts evacuation alerts plus HWY 3 closure and U.S. fire crosses into B.C.

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Castlegar bridge designed by architect of collapsed Italian bridge

Riccardo Morandi designed the Kinnaird Bridge, which is part of Highway 3.

UPDATE: Fire forces closures and delays on Highway 3 at Kootenay Pass

Motorists should detour using Kootenay Lake ferry

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Former Trump aide Paul Manafort found guilty of eight charges

A mistrial has been declared for the other 10 charges against him

Canada’s team chasing elusive gold medal at women’s baseball World Cup

Canada, ranked No. 2 behind Japan, opens play Wednesday against No. 10 Hong Kong

Former B.C. detective gets 20 months in jail for kissing teen witnesses

James Fisher, formerly with Vancouver police department, pleaded guilty to three charges in June

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark criticizes feds for buying pipeline

The $4.5 billion purchase of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline second worst decision, she said

‘Takes more courage to fail’: B.C. ultra-marathon swimmer reflects on cancelled try at record

Susan Simmons halted her swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back because of hypothermia

Animals moved from B.C. Interior shelters to make way for pets displaced by wildfires

The Maple Ridge SPCA houses animals to make space for pets evacuated from B.C.’s burning interior.

$21.5 million medical pot plant to be built in B.C.

The facility is to be built in Princeton

Spokane man enlists 500,000+ box fans to blow wildfire smoke back to B.C.

Spokane man Caleb Moon says he’s had enough with smoky skies from B.C.’s forest fires blanketing his city

Most Read