EDITORIAL: A burning issue

As the province burns up, there has been quite the buzz about the Martin Mars water bomber, located on Vancouver Island.

There has been quite the back and forth between people who think they know what is best, and from firefighters on the ground, and from the provincial government.

The BC Wildfire Service operated 16 air tankers, eight Bird Dog planes, and four water bombers that are capable of skimming up to 3,025 litres of water in 15 seconds. BC Wildfire Service also has a crew of 1,100 Type 1 firefighters who respond to nearly 2,000 fires on behalf of the province. In addition, the province also employs additional contract firefighters as needed.

Now that a state of emergency has been called in the province, Coulson Flying Tankers have been making the news as their Martin Mars Water Bomber sits in partial retirement.

The province has not renewed the world’s largest flying tanker’s contract in more than five years.

The CEO recently stated the Martin Mars isn’t anywhere near ready for firefighting action at this time.

I’ve been on that plane. I have seen it fly overhead on Canada Day when I lived for years in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. I have paddled up to its giant wingspan, and taken in the awe of its size.

It is a truly amazing example of vintage aviation craft. When it flies overhead, you can hear it coming long before you see it. The power it carries behind it is exhilarating, and getting inside the cockpit feels downright mighty.

But, it’s tactics are old and outdated. We have more efficient firefighting crafts now, and years of fighting wildfires has shown us what practices are best.

Thankfully, with this state of emergency, Ottawa has sent an additional rank of 200 firefighters to B.C., and has pledged aircraft assistance as 600 fires burn across the province.

These resources should help overwhelmed B.C. firefighters do the best job they can. We are also pulling resources from towns that have enough staff to assist in handling the fires.

It is easy for everyone to put in their two cents, but the truth is that us regular folk have no idea what is best.

Let’s leave those decisions up to the professionals.

The best way for us to help right now is to encourage our firefighters, and open our hearts and homes to those who need it.

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