Fort McMurray/Port Alberni (With files from Weather Network/CBC) – MAY 7 UPDATE – The iconic Martin Mars aerial firefighting tanker has not been deployed to Fort McMurray to fight a fire that has forced the evacuation of 88,000 residents and now owner Wayne Coulson is facing public criticism.
Several people have turned to social media to express their frustration. Due to public interest, Coulson posted a response on Facebook.
“We understand the frustration of the public, especially in a case like this where a fire is consuming property and threatening lives,” Coulson wrote.
According to the owner of Coulson Flying Tankers, there are three reasons why the 70-year-old plane isn’t in Fort McMurray.
For starters, the Alberta government has not requested it. However, Coulson says the company has offered one of their C-130’s that could be made available immediately.
“If there was a request by the Alberta government to contract the Martin Mars, we would do everything in our power to support the request,” the Facebook post reads.
Moreover, it is not up to the firefighting business to decide who has operational control over the aircraft, it is the government, Coulson added.
“No aircraft operator in the world can simply go out and put out a fire, even if they wanted to and if someone ever did, they would be facing serious criminal charges.”
Finally, the aircraft is undergoing its annual inspection.
“Based on the fact no government has any interest whatsoever in the aircraft fighting fire, we have decided to take the Mars to the Oshkosh Air Show in late July in hopes of finding another business or home for it, keeping it somewhat operational.”
In 2013, the contract between British Columbia and Coulson Group to use the air tanker was ended. The province decided to use a smaller plane more fitting to the area’s mountainous terrain.
The Martin Mars is a four-engined cargo transport seaplane originally designed and built in limited numbers for the U.S. Navy. It is the world’s largest fixed-wing water bomber.
MAY 5 UPDATE -CBC reported that Alberta Sustainable Resources says the Martin Mars is to begin dropping huge loads of water Saturday on the Richardson backcountry fires.
The four-engine Martin Mars will be based on Gregoire Lake.
The Second World War-era aircraft can scoop up 27,000 litres of water for each flight.
ORIGINAL STORY – One thing that has peaked the interest of forest fire watchers and Fort McMurray is, where is the workhorse of all forest fires?
The Martin Mars Waterbomber.
Wayne Coulson with Coulson Flying Tankers (Port Alberni) posted a response on Facebook:
We have had several inquiries from the public and the media as to why the Mars is not working on the fire situation up in Fort McMurray.
Firstly, if there was a request by the Alberta Government to contract the Martin Mars, we would do everything in our power to support the request. In fact, we have offered one of our C-130’s that could be made available immediately, to the Alberta Government however they currently do not see a need for it at th…e moment. We have our crews for it on standby, regardless. Next to the Mars at 7200 USG, our C-130’s are the largest propeller driven air tankers in the world with a 4400 USG capacity.
The Mars is currently going through its yearly inspection. Based on the fact no government has any interest whatsoever in the aircraft fighting fire, we have decided to take the Mars to the Oshkosh Air Show in late July in hopes of finding another business or home for it, keeping it somewhat operational.
We understand the frustration of the public, especially in a case like this where a fire is consuming property and threatening lives. We are committed to supporting government agencies, firefighters and the public when our services are required.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray.