After a couple of years on the sidelines, the giant Martin Mars water bomber will be battling BC fires in a matter of days.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson confirms the Martin Mars is being prepped for battle.
“As you know, it has not been used to fight forest fires for the past two years, and given that it’s coming out of retirement, we need to ensure that it is all set up and safe and ready to be engaged. The Coulson Group is currently getting it ready to fly. We expect we may be in a position to use the air tanker by this weekend.”
As the bomber took its first test flight in over two years Thursday Port Alberni residents cheered from their doorsteps.
The plane’s operator, Wayne Coulson, says the Martin Mars will drop up to 27-thousand litres at a time on the 400 hectare Dog Mountain interface fire as early as Saturday.
“The Mars and the helicopters, I think, will definitely get it under control in a short period of time.”
As for operating costs.
“Our contract is 15,000 a day for a day rate, and our cost is 6000 dollars an hour, and the government is paying for fuel.”
Port Alberni Mayor, Mike Ruttan , says the Martin Mars has tremendous capacity.
“We’ve seen what it can do; we’ve seen what could have been devastating fires in just a couple of drops. People here are aware of its abilities, aware of its size, aware of its potential. We definitely want to see it used.”
Local resident Kathi Donovan launched an online petition to bring the bomber into commission.
It’s gained more than 20-thousand signatures in 5 days.
As BC grapples with an aggressive fire season, the province has signed a one month contract to bring the Mars out of retirement for the first time since 2013.
Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek said as of mid-day Thursday there were 201 active fires across the province but the number fluctuates as some are extinguished and others ignite.