AVICC 2018 – Conference Live Blog Friday to Sunday

FINAL UPDATES.  Post is from Friday to Sunday, Top to Bottom.

Another year another AVICC conference!

This one is shaping up to be very busy again.  I will semi-live blog it throughout the weekend.  Which means posting updates here throughout the next three days.

Just yesterday given development in the news I asked that we bring forward a late motion to the floor on Sunday morning titled:

“WEST COAST MARINE SPILL RESPONSE GUARANTEE”

 

Here is the full text that we will be handing out:

Check out the poll on the side of this page to register your opinion on this question!

Aside from that, there is the usual wide array of conference sessions and materials to consider.  Things are already getting underway this morning but I am at VIU until at least 1PM this afternoon before I’ll be driving down with Councillor Minions.  I believe Councillor Sauvé and Washington are already there, Councillor Paulson is coming today and Mayor Ruttan is attending Saturday/Sunday.

Here is the Convention Program, we hope to be there by 4PM for Premier Horgan’s address this afternoon at 4PM.

You can see all of the materials from the conference including the resolutions being considered here. 

I haven’t gone through them all yet. Will have to do that later this evening. The next update will likely come Saturday morning as we start into sessions and the business of the Convention.  See you soon!  Also watch out for live video feeds. Depending on WIFI performance and battery life on my phone. 🙂

Lots has happened since I arrived here around 2PM on Friday.

Councillor Minions and I carpooled down Friday afternoon. We arrived in time to catch some of the afternoon sessions as well as the address by the Premier.

As we arrived, the Keynote from Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City was just wrapping up. From the wikipage:

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design is a 2013 book written by the Canadian author Charles Montgomery. Gathering insights from the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, urban planning and Montgomery’s own social experiments, the book makes the case that the manner in which we build our cities alters the way in which we feel, think, and behave as individuals and as a society. Montgomery argues that the happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7

There were great questions from the floor, this is something that needs to be on our collective reading lists.

Next was Premier Horgan’s adress. I live streamed it on Facebook, you can view it here, no login required.

Housing Session 4:45PM — This session was an update from BC Housing

$7B over 10 years in 2018 budget is the most in one province ever. Federal bilateral agreement coming soon. The stars are aligned.  Must create housing that matches need on the ground. In past has not matched.

This is one of the biggest issues in our province and country and the revenues are now being directed for a huge push.

To Zone for Rental. Property tax exemptions. –  Revitalization tax bylaw required first. The housing continuum… far left gets most press. Also working on far right important for fental and home ownership.

Need to get in on Housing Hub for Port Alberni. BC Housing is hiring additional staff for the staff to meet need. Tiny homes are not a panacea… they take a lot of land. 

BC Housing can’t mortgage them when they come in on wheels. Working on a Homeless Action Plan – from a prevention program perspective. Housing Agreements :  Peer to Peer program will be created to help Local Government work with tools like housing agreements.

7AM Saturday Morning – Social Procurement

Town of QB Social Procurement Policy 6000-3. Using the polivy to re work their Memorial Drive with a pedestrian and cycling separate path and realign dangerous intersection.

Social procurement is something we are working hard on in Port Alberni.  The Canadian Mental Health Association has had a farm on Beaver Creek Road (across from COOP) that has adhered to these principles. They are a great example.

The really interesting part about the AVICC presentation was the notion that it is about more than just helping the disadvantaged in any particular town and building that into every city project. It is about all sorts of different “social” values that the community can set that would ensure that no matter what project is ongoing at the City, the outcome reflects the community more deeply than just paving a street.

More notes from the presentation:
VICA is training, 6 weeks class 3 weeks on site.  100% of contractors said they would use potential individual if trained and available.

Social value is about more than just employing people. It is about what the community values, indigenous, environment, people.
POSSIBLE MOTION Bring membership in social hub forward to council?

Resolutions Saturday!

The rest of Saturday morning was taken up by the actual business of the conference which is mostly considering and debating motions.  It was actually quite an active session (You can see all the motions at the links at the top of the page).  The most contentious one that got the most debate was whether we should ask the BC Government to put Local Government councillors, mayors and directors back on a 3 year rotation rather than 4 years between election.

After lots of good points on both sides… most of which I agreed with on both sides, we had a close vote to keep it at 4 years. The argument for 3 years boiled down mostly to ensuring people were not scared off by the longer commitment and to give more opportunity for voters to have a say.  The argument for 4 years was that there was a much better chance to get things accomplished, particularly for new people (like myself) and it provided more ability for the community to see what a council actually could achieve before “silly season” of an election year hit.

I personally lean toward the 4 years for both of those reasons. Also this is only the first term that we have had 4 years between local elections. I think it is worth giving it another term or two before we go back to the Province and say it was a mistake to try this out.

ICF UPDATE

Later on Saturday we got an update from the outgoing ICF CEO.  There was not a lot of new information, but it is good to hear the entire report from the source. There was no lack of interest. The small room it was confined to was packed.

Sunday Early Morning!

Sundays are always difficult after a long evening of networking the night before! But we hunkered down at 8AM to get back into it.  We heard from Minister Selena Robinson who is “our Minister” for Local Government. She is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing]. Apologies, no video feed as my phone was acting badly.

She spoke of the need to address the housing crisis among other things. I was also very impressed to hear her mention climate change in our remarks and the fact that the impacts of climate change will affect local community infrastructure the most. That is where we will need to focus a huge amount of senior government dollars in order to adapt to the changes that are already here and coming soon.  I like to think that the little bit of pushing we at the City of Port Alberni did at the UBCM last September to highlight the impacts of recent flooding that has occurred more frequently, likely due in part to climate change, maybe played a role in her making that mention.

After all the talking was finished, we finally got back to the Resolutions. There was a lot of concern we would not have time to get to the one that the City of Port Alberni wanted to bring forward about Oil Spill Response but lo- and- behold we got there with just 20 minutes left in the morning!

A huge thanks to Councillors Sauvé and Minions for helping distribute the papers on all the tables on both days and also to Councillor Kirby from Oak Bay who was very active and helped both distribute and talk to people abut the importance of the motion.

The great thing about these conferences is the people you meet and learn from and the friendships you build.  This was a great example of one of those friendships helping to pass an important resolution for our community.  I hope the AVICC writes that letter soon and we see some movement from the Governments of BC and Canada to guarantee those oil spill response bases on our coast.

And that… with about 5 minutes to spare… was it!!

 

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit report – 2017 – Updating Wed/Thurs

I am here for the VIEA Summit 2017 on behalf of Council.  I’ll be doing a report like I have done for UBCM.  It is just a two day conference with just three or four sessions that I’ll be able to attend but I have always found it to be very valuable.  Below is my schedule:

It is now 3:30PM and I’ve already had a number of great conversations with folks, from a solar installer in Nanaimo, to Sheila Malcolmsen NDP MP for Nanaimo about derelict vessels and a rep from the Coastal Community Credit Union about community funding of local agriculture!

First session I attended was on Trade and Transportation.

Here are my notes:

Keynote – Dan Tisch

Mr. Tisch spoke about the fake news phenomenon and how to manage communications with customers and clients and constituents in that new world.

He emphasized the need to create trust and how the (social) values of an organization has become extremely important to their overall reputation and success.

Openness, willingness to listen, and willingness to take and maintain principled stands will lead to success for the organization as a whole.  This is definitely something that applies to Cities as well.


VIEA Trade and Transportation Session

Short Sea Shipping –

Peter Amott – Pacific Basin

They moved log shipping (export) from Fraser port to Nanaimo because of shipping costs, delays, etc at Lower Mainland. Realized major volume increase in Nanaimo, 60 jobs.

Tabare Dominquez – DP World – Major Container Shipping (10% of world shipping). Only lift on/off (no dreyage, no trucking) on Vancouver Island for import/export to Asia.

Adam Cook – CN Rail

“Truck like service at the cost of rail” Partners with Southern Rail of VI at Annacis Island to Welcox Seaspan – BC Ferries – DP World – Steamship Lines

Alison Boulton Small Business BC – Export Navigator Pilot (also in Port Alberni through Community Futures). Facilitates communication with exporters. Export Advisor in each community…

…… QUESTIONS ….

To DP World —

Infrastructure is a significant constraint. It is fragmented.  It would be good to concentrate volume. We are ready to invest if there is more volume.

Q: Nanaimo/Alberni or Prince Rupert is place for expansion if Vancouver is maxed?
A: vancouver capacity is tight. Rupert and Island do not compete.  He sees opportunity for direct calls to the Island.

 


Renewable Energy Session

EcoSmartsun.com

Solar energy installation in the world is currently at “one Site C per month”. In 10 years, world will install 1 Terawatt per year. In US, grid parity has been achieved (solar is as cheap as coal or gas) in 27 states.

Price for utility solar is now $1 per watt. Residential in US is about $2 per watt (installed). Resource on Vancouver Island is good in SE, plus Port Alberni and Comox Valley.  Maps available here.

Gave an example of Sooke first Nation for net metering (which is similar in payback to WCGH installation)

The cost needs to be below 11c/kWH to beat BC Hydro and achieve a payback.  The grah below shows the potential.  2 axis refers to the solar panels being able to track the sun horizontally and vertically.  Most installs, like WCGH are fixed (blue dots).

Nanaimo, Tofino and Comox are listed and are indicated to be just above the threshold. Port Alberni should be as well.

Renewable Natural Gas – Fortis BC

“Carbon Neutral option”. “Biogas” is injected into the conventional natural gas stream.

Take gas from landfills, farms. 200,000 GJ of NG in 2017. City of Surrey is doing a biofuel plant in 2018 that will take organics.  Will provide 120,000GJ. City of Surrey uses CNG for their garbage trucks, will potentially use RNG for their trucks will reduce their carbon footprint.

Percentage RNG – is currently 0.25% of installed capacity of traditional gas. Fortis can move up 5% or 9 petajoules per year to RNG. (How likely is this??)

VIU Allan Cumbers -Geo Exchange utilizing old Mine shafts

Water is 12°C year round.  Will be used for multiple buildings on a 3 loop system for both heating and cooling. Health and Sciences centre (being built now) will be first building.  Then Gathering Place and Building 205. Then HSC 2.  If pilot project is successful should be able to expand district system to all buildings where it makes sense to retrofit for geo-exchange.

Expect to save 320 tonnes of CO2 on first building on Phase 1, payback is 18 years.


We will be hearing from the Premier at dinner tonight. He is addressing us by video link from Victoria (due to needing to be in the Legislature for votes in the house).  Will report back tonight or tomorrow.


Thursday morning.

We started with a breakfast and keynote focusing on Earthquake preparedness and risk management and then that continued into the first session of the morning.  Here are notes from that:

  • At LA International Airport they focused on what was needed to operate. Only two things… runways and communications not buildings.  So they focused on hardening those.
  • Nothing in BC is designed to survive mega earthquake

  • Japan earthquake. Nuke damage was done by tsunami, not earthquake. The company built a 7m wall when data said it should have been 15m. Has cost Japan $1 Trillion.
  • Another nuke plant, Onagawa… undamaged. Had a 15m wall. The ground dropped in earthquake (much closer to epicnter) by 1m. Tsunami was 13.5m.  Largely undamaged and safe.

  • The risk in Vancouver Island is very high.. as high as any japan, mexico, just less frequent. Studies are often too academic.  Frequency is almost irrelevant. Focus on simple study of elevation and practical steps to harden buildings. For houses… keep them on their foundations. Bolt them down.

BC Code should be closer to Chile and California, we need to compare Canada and other codes to learn from their experience.

  • Municipalities – do a strategic risk – find the most critical pieces.
  • The building code is not always the end all be all… building code is for life saving, not business interruption. Low bidders may be life saving minimum code only… higher cost, possible business interruption which is key.

For mitigating Tsunami. Really can only build a wall (backfilled with parkland) direct the water away from downtown…. or long term plan to move people/business out of flood zone.

Film and TV Session

BC is the 3rd largest film production in North America, biggest in Canada. #1 for visual effects in the world

$2.6 Billion in production this year. $1 Billion in wages. $23 Million in wages on the Island. 50 productions on the Island, 250 filming days. Chesapeake Shores spent $5M alone. Streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Google) will add $25 Billion to global production business.

32,000sqft of stage space in Parksville. 3-4 Million sqft of stage space in BC.  Why B.C.? -> locations. Every possible type. Episodic TV is now main source of revenue in BC.

There is no Commercial space in lower mainland. 1% vacancy. Film Commissions cannot charge fees… so are left to ask for community grants to help fund their activities.

For Film Studio space you need high ceilings,  30-40ft. Clear span no pillars. Purpose built is usually best though small productions can use smaller spaces, but are unlikely to commit long term.

Parksville is going out on a limb. Because it is a location spot, not studio.  There are numerous people on the Island and the training is key.  Need more infrastructure in terms of rentals for video and lighting and audio.  Usually if a space is built, and a long term contract found, then the rental infrastructure companies come.

Tofino was great to shoot but no hotels… so used Best Western in Port Alberni for shoots for a commercial.  Major production facilities requires 5 star hotel for the actors. So only Victoria and Vancouver currently. However, small scale commercials or TV could use production space on an interim basis.

X-Men spent $40,000 just on ferries.

Biggest takeaway is for communities to always be welcoming, not to lie or gloss over locations, and to roll with the punches.  TV Industry is extremely fast paced, last minute, and unconventional.  They respond to places that can meet their idiosyncrasies with a smile.

That’s it! It was a very quick, but very good conference.  Lots of things to take away and learn from. I’ve already sent a number of emails to a bunch of people following up about it.

 

My (oh my!) Mini Split Heat Pump Savings! They could be yours? :)

I just received confirmation that BC Hydro has received (by email) my application for their $800 Rebate for mini-split heat pump installs. Woot! Hopefully the cheque comes back soon. 🙂
(note the rebate is only available for mini-split not traditional heat pumps)
I could only apply for the Hydro rebate (there are a bunch!) because I got rid of my oil furnace 10 years ago when we moved into our home, but if you upgrade from an oil furnace you can apply for an extra $500 rebate from the City of Port Alberni!
The total cost was $8099.75 for the heat pump plus $163.67 for the electrical work so $8263.42 total.
It is a Fujitsu variable speed heat pump with one outdoor unit (pictured) and two indoor units.  AHRI Number 6998277.  Here is the system’s AHRI certificate.
 
I am super happy with the installation and the comfort level of the system compared to our electric baseboards. (or… way back when… the noisy, smelly, expensive and inefficient oil furnace!) We keep the house at a steady 20C.
The two indoor units, one larger one on the main floor and a smaller one in the basement have no trouble keeping the house (2500sqft, built 1940, EnerGuide rating 64+) warm. And both they and the outside unit are basically silent from inside the house!

We are also in the middle of replacing a roof/ceiling in our 2nd floor bathroom which means there is no insulation up there so lots of extra heat loss temporarily. (It’s chilly in there at night!).  Once that is insulated again I expect our savings to increase.

We turn the breakers off on our baseboard heaters through the summer and most of them have remained off except our two upstairs bedrooms, but those are turned down to 18C and haven’t come on yet, even with the bathroom work. 

By The Numbers

I ran some numbers comparing this time period (Oct 6-22) in 2015 and in 2016 and comparing, thanks to BC Hydro tracking average temperatures, with days of similar temperature.

I grouped days by their temperature and by year and then got an average temperature and KWh usage for that temperature for each year.

2016 is the comparable year: Average consumption since installing the system Oct 6 has been about 62% of last year: a range of between 48% and 74% of last year in kilowatt hours per day.
I used groups of temperature days at 8C, 9C, 10C, 11.5C, 12C and 12.5C… a total of about 26 days of comparison between the two years.  So differences in daily weather patterns are minimized.
 
If I am super conservative and take the low end savings, I get 25% off of last year’s power usage, that would be a saving on my November 2016 bill of 636kWh… all on the top tier of 12.43c/kWh which would have amounted to a savings of $79.08 on my November 2016 bill.  
If I go on the top end of the savings calculated I go as high as a 50% reduction in power usage, that would get me to 1272.5kWh less usage compared to last November’s bill which is within Tier 1. I would have saved $154.79 on that bill.

Last year was, by far, our most expensive and consumption rich year ever since moving into the house.  A combination of a very cold winter, and a family that is growing up and using more heat (kids having showers!) and finishing the basement, etc etc.

We use electricity exclusively for our energy/heating needs.  We paid a total BC Hydro bill last year between May 2016 and May 2017 of $2724.32.

A 25% savings on that would be:

$681.08

A 50% savings on that would be:

$1362.16

per year.

Subtracting the $800 rebate, the cost of the Heat Pump would be paid for in 5 to 11 years.
I suspect that the savings will be somewhere in the middle of that range on a percentage basis, but it is of course difficult, if not impossible, to predict the monetary savings given annual weather and hydro rate variables.  It does seem certain that hydro rates will rise, and so with them, savings. A 5-10 year payoff seems quite likely and I’m OK with that. 🙂

Time to Investigate, Improve and Augment Aerial Fire Fighting. Commit to the Martin Mars.

This is a followup to BC Wildfire Tanker Cost FOI — The Devil is in the -redacted- Details.  Download the full, un-redacted FOI Release here: Reconsideration FOI (PDF) Download the Excel Spreadsheet here: XLS file or PDF file

THE PREVIOUSLY REDACTED DETAILS HAVE BEEN RELEASED!
CHALLENGE #1:

Will the parties and subsequent new Provincial Government, commit to re-evaluating the effectiveness of its FIRE FIGHTING STRATEGY and USE OF AERIAL RESOURCES?  Are we attacking fires effectively in order to keep overall costs down?  Does the current ‘let it burn’ strategy still apply with new and extreme fire behaviour? Should we implement ‘no-go-zones’ in regions near population centres with heightened surveillance and much improved initial-attack response times in order to keep uncontrolled burning to an absolute minimum?  Have we implemented the recommendations of the Commissioners report produced after the Kelowna Fires?

CHALLENGE #2:

Will the New Provincial Government, re-evalutate its tendering process, make long term firefighting contracts open and public and ban the receipt of donations from prospective firefighting companies as well as impose limits on how government and industry professionals and move between sectors that would avoid potential conflicts of interest.

CHALLENGE #3:

Will the New Provincial Government, invest in the upgrade of both Martin Mars aircraft to modern turbine engines to reduce fuel, maintenance, and positioning costs and ensure these aircraft are in the provincial arsenal for the forseeable future and further, create lake bases across the province for all amphibious and flying boat aircraft to use in times of need as inevitable fire fighting emergencies will continue to increase as climate change impacts our province?

In the words below I submit the information that I believe supports implementing these initiatives.

The Government Fact Sheet Debunked by Government Information.

As announced by Airspray on their Facebook page on Sunday, Monday April 24 marks the start of the 2017 Fire Season.  At this time in 2016, I had already been in contact with the Ministry for a request for information on contracts and flight and fuel costs.  The full information was initially redacted and, after a complaint to the Commissioner, was not released for 6 months. In January I finally got the email. It has taken me this long to slog through the numbers and create a report.

So here is a little reach back in order to tie up those loose ends.  In summer 2014, when fires raged and controversy peaked on the absence of the Martin Mars aircraft including a 19,000 signature petition. The Government released a “Fact Sheet“. It was thoroughly debunked with available information.

However, some questions lingered due especially to a lack of full cost information. That was the purpose of the FOI and new facts released by the Ministry have helped clear things up.

The Ministry claimed “four new fire bosses cost $2.5 Million per fire season” plus hourly rates.  The FOI reported cost for 2015 was $2.1 Million excluding the birddog and a total of $3.3 Million including flight and fuel costs for 600 hours of work.  The Martin Mars cost $450,000 on standby for 30 days and another $456,000 for flight and fuel.

Fuel costs are estimates as only average fuel consumption numbers were provided by the Ministry.  According to my discussions with the Ministry, actual billed fuel costs seem to be tracked nearly manually and are not coalesced electronically. This would have required a massive cost in time and effort to bring together that I could not afford or justify.

Why are fuel costs, surely the cost most susceptible to extreme fluctuation, not tracked more comprehensively and transparently?

Hourly flight rates between the various types of aircraft turn out to be very similar.  2015 rates, excluding fuel, are around $6000-$6500 for Martin Mars and Air Boss Groups, bird dogs are included, and $4000-4500 for CV580 or L188 Air Tankers.

Actual fuel consumption rates are also very comparable between flight groups.  A pack of 4 Airboss aircraft have an average fuel consumption of 1400 Litres per Hour (350 each), slightly less for the wheeled types.  The workhorse CV580 and L188 fire retardant air tankers use between 1400 and 2800 Litres per hour respectively.  And the biggest aircraft, Martin Mars, consumes 2850 Litres per hour.

Perhaps the most emotional topic brought forward during the debate was age.  The FOI request revealed not only the age of all of the aircraft in the provincial arsenal, but more importantly for aircraft, the flight hours.

The AirBoss aircraft are essentially new.  The oldest planes were built in the 1990s but most were built in this century.  However, the veteran aircraft in the arsenal are the CV580 and L188 Electra aircraft.  These aircraft are between 40 and 65 years old and yet log hundreds of hours a year from bases around the province.  Their airframe hours (reported in 2010) range from 14,000 to 24,000 for the Airspray L188s and 52 – 81,000 hours for the ConAir L188 and CV580s.  The Martin Mars aircraft, according to information provided to me by the company, are as of 2017 at exactly 21,326 hours and 23,497 hours for the Philippine and Hawaii Mars aircraft respectively.  For the Hawaii Mars, the aircraft used last in 2015, just 3,459 of those hours were since conversion to Fire Bombing in 1964.

The biggest challenge for the Martin Mars is not age or ability, it is maintenance of its engines and the cost and availability of the “AVGas” fuel needed for the piston engines compared to “Jet A/B” used by turbo-prop aircraft.

The cost to replace the piston engines with fuel efficient and more powerful turbo-props have been suggested to be in the $10-$30 Million per plane.  Would that one-time cost be worth it if the planes could give us 5000-10,000 more hours each of forest fire fighting time over the next 40 years?  Given the changes in weather that we can expect in that same time, I believe so.

CONTRACTS FOR LIFE

Away from the technical details, the contracts themselves should really be a cause for concern. They are invariably long term, and rarely changing… demonstrated in the excerpt below:

Last Line of the 2008 annual modification with Airspray. Document shows it was reused from Year 2000 contract.

Agreements are 7-10 years with modifications each fire season to specify location, dates, and incremental increases in costs if they are different from the template.  The process has essentially gone unchanged, and unchallenged, for probably 20 years if not longer.  And yet, the public does not have access to these contracts.  They are not overly complex. And their cost should not be a state secret.  We already know the bottomline numbers for the cost of wildfire firefighting in British Columbia.  The public deserves to know more detail.

The call for proposals for the 2007 Air Tanker Service contract above is still on the website and shown below.Note that Jeff Berry, the Provincial Air Tanker Manager in 2007, is now Vice President at ConAir.

Over that time, there can be no doubt that ConAir in particular has benefited to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars in contract and flight/fuel costs compared to the other two companies.

ConAir provided 5 groups comprising 18 aircraft for the 2015 season compared to 4 planes from Airspray (up from 2 since 2008) and 1 from Coulson (down from 2 in 2007).  The total bill shared in standby costs to three companies in 2015 was approximately $15.7 Million.  About $12 Million of that went to ConAir.  With flight and fuel costs you can add another $18 Million being paid for Provincial air tankers with only $450,000 of that going to Coulson/Martin Mars and $5 Million going to Airspray.  So in total ConAir, in one year, walked away with business totalling as much as $24 million on a total BC Wildfire cost of $277 million.  About 1/10 of the entire budget.  Is that right? That is what the information seems to suggest. We need more transparency.

Donating to Political Parties, or not, is just as consistent.

Since March 2005, ConAir has donated $100,000 to the BC Liberal Party and $2500 to the NDP.

Coulson started donating politically in 2009 and has donated $9450 to the BC Liberals and $5350 to the NDP.  Airspray is not listed as having donated to either party.

You can get there from here.

Finally, remember when the Province said the Martin Mars was not that great because of the small number of lakes it could use in British Columbia?  The FOI included the list of lakes, both those suitable for bases, and those just for scooping.

I have plotted them in Google Earth.  You can download a Google Earth File with the information here.

Here are the Bases.  These lakes represent places where not only the Mars could be based, but any amphibious or flying boat aircraft could be repositioned in times of need.  Except for those way up north, they are all within a few miles of a major population centre able to provide logistics and support.  If there is not already facilities for floating aircraft, these are the places BC should invest in staging areas to facilitate the use of all firefighting water-borne aircraft.

The circles are 600km radius showing the historical range the Martin Mars has demonstrated. For example, from its base in Port Alberni to a fire in Nelson. From bases in BC the Martin Mars can cover all of the province, plus most of Alberta, Washington and parts of Yukon and Oregon. KMZ DOWNLOAD HERE

These are lakes able to be used by the Martin Mars for scooping.  Most are near population centres, where extreme fire conditions are most likely to require extended attention.  It is likely that these are the most commonly used lakes for all firefighting activity by amphibious or flying-boat aircraft.

Rebasing the Martin Mars is certainly one of the key reasons it is expensive to operate.  The amount of support people and materiel that moves with the Mars means an extra $13,000 a day in costs. However, as we saw with the fires in 2003 in the Interior, when you need them, they are worth the cost. A basing scheme with permanent staging points that benefits more than just the Mars would maximize their use and minimize the costs of all water-borne aircraft.

One last thing, that fancy plane.

Remember when Provincial Cabinet Minister Mike De Jong announced in February 2016 that the BC Government would be evaluating the RJ-85 Avro jet powered fire fighting aircraft for the first time in the 2016 fire season?

FOI records do not show any new contract being awarded.  The RJ-85 had already been on a ‘supplementary’ list for additional aircraft since at least 2014.  The RJ-85 has not been used in BC for fire fighting according to the information provided. The information does show that two RJ-85s were flown for a total of 9 hours at zero cost to the Province in 2014. By the way, by the way, is around 2,400 Litres per hour, in line with the all ‘heavy’ fire fighting aircraft.

Take out the Politics. We need all hands on deck.

As I have delved into this topic over the years one truism came up again and again… aerial fire fighting is political.  And here we are, in the middle of a provincial election proving that point once again.

We need a government that will take the politics out of it.  We need a government that will not be influenced, or even be perceived as influenced by political donations from companies that provide its services.  Will the any of the parties commit to this?

In light of the challenges faced us with climate change and the new fire behaviour that it is creating, are we providing adequate protection to our forest service?  Is the Air Tractor, which has had notable safety as well as personnel problems investigated by Transport Canada, the right system for the job?

I believe all of the planes in the provincial arsenal are valuable and need to be used to their maximum potential.  We need to find the best way to minimize the potential for loss of life, property, and resources in BC and a robust initial attack.  Aircraft should not be retired out of spite, or misplaced ‘ageism’. We need and deserve as British Columbians a full costing of the forest firefighting world and an analysis of how best to minimize those costs both now, and in future conditions in 10, 20, or 50 years.

The technology is unlikely to change much in that time, but it seems certain that expectations for success are certain to only rise.

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