Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?
As a northern girl born and raised just north of Prince George, I can tell you firsthand how important first response to a wildfire situation is, just as many British Columbians are saying now. Once a fire is reported and the decision is made that it’s a situation that must be handled, the earlier crews and/or aircraft can tackle the blaze, the more cost-effective it is, and the safer it is for all involved.
The Mars Bomber has for many years, been one part of an effective arsenal of fire -fighting in the province of BC, but last year the decision was made to stop their direct-award contract, and the Mars are sitting idle on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island – much to the confusion of many who have seen the plane in action. The Mars is capable of a large payload of water and, in some situations, can knock back a fire with incredible effectiveness, yet it sits after years of service to the province.
From the link above:
” Despite it’s world-renowned ability to scoop up and drop 27,200 litres of water at time and a 53-year legacy of dowsing forest fires across North America, this year the provincial government opted not to renew its contract with Coulson Flying Tankers, the Hawaii Mars’ owner.
Instead the province looked to Abbotsford-based Conair for aerial fire suppression, gaining the services of four smaller turbinepowered aircraft instead of the massive Hawaii Mars.
Early into the forest fire season, it appears the situation in B.C. will be particularly serious this year.
Halfway through July, 624 fires have been documented by the Wildfire Management Branch, encompassing 105,697 hectares. The spread of forest fires this summer has already eclipsed the 2013 total of 18,259 hectares, and appears to be approaching the average burn total of 141,000.T
he cost of fighting these blazes is yet to be released, but as a relatively calm season drained $122.2 million of provincial funds, the 2014 forest firefighting costs should be enormous.
According to Coulson Group of Companies CEO Wayne Coulson, the Mars bomber’s firefighting contract in 2013 amounted to $750,000, yet this year the province decided to go with Conair’s smaller, more modern aircraft for $1.8 million.
After the deal was made Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource operations cited the bomber’s “operational limitations” with respect to performing multiple drop patterns in B.C.’s mountainous terrain.
The decision to with the Abbotsford company was made while considering the “more cost-effective, efficient options available due to advances in airplane technology,” Thomson said. But the price disparity between the two options warrants a more detailed explanation of why the government chose the costlier contract.”
Hmmm.. who would be best suited to offer a knowledgeable perspective on the governments choice to go with the costlier contract to Conair?
How about someone with first-hand, government experience, who “joined Conair in the spring of 2013 after a 36 year career with the British Columbia Forest Service, all in the forest fire domain with 26 years specifically in airtanker operations. Jeff was the head of British Columbia’s Airtanker Program from 1996 to 2013.” http://conair.ca/conair_team/jeff-berry
With Jeff’s direct and long experience within the BC Forest service, he might be able to lend some perspective on why the Mars sits idle…
Incidentally, and I am sure, purely coincidental… it was the spring of 2013 when the owner of the Coulson group came out strongly against the BC Liberals prior to the election, and the poor Liberal forest policies that impacted small communities all over the province.
While Conair has donated exclusively to the BC Liberals since 2005, with one donation in the spring to the BCNDP when it appeared they may win the last election: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=conair&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=2014/07/21&DateFrom=2005/01/01&DFYear=2005&DFMonth=01&DFDay=01&DTYear=2014&DTMonth=07&DTDay=21
Conair Group president and CEO Barry Marsden also received the Order Of BC : http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/05/30/Lib-Donors-Get-Order-of-BC/#sthash.l3oXx69s.dpuf
Some backstory on the Mars contract and service: http://www.avtimes.net/news/local/bomber-a-heroic-giant-1.621281