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Former Navy planes from the 1930s used in fire

Lake Elsinore:

One of the last remaining models of the largest flying boat ever mass produced was expected to take off from Lake Elsinore today to fight California's raging wildfires.

Brought from Canada to help in the firefighting effort, the Martin Mars JRM III was expected to take off from Seaport Boat Launch at Lake Elsinore before noon today, headed first for the Harris fire in San Diego County, said Wayne Coulson, whose company, Coulson Flying Tankers, owns two Martin Mars JRM III planes.

The aircraft carries 7,200 gallons of water, enough to cover an area of four acres. The aircraft was loaded with a mix of water and Thermo-Gel, a material that helps expedite firefighting.

A smaller aircraft owned by the California Fire Department was expected to fly ahead to tell the pilot of the Martin Mars JRM III where to drop a combination of water and Thermo-Gel.

"It's like a four-acre blanket laid ... when the fire burns up to the Thermo-Gel, it puts it out," said Wayne Coulson.

Coulson Flying Tankers owns the last two remaining Martin Mars JRM III, which were used by the U.S. Navy in the late 1930s for ocean patrol, Coulson said.

Coulson Flying Tankers renovated the planes. The company, based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, contracts with fire departments to combat fires.

Coulson bought the two aircraft six months ago and began discussions with fire authorities in California in the weeks before the fires.

Coulson would not say how much he paid for the planes, other than to say they were a "significant investment." Nor would he say how much he is receiving from California the service.

Perry Esquer, aircraft manager from the San Diego Fire Department, said the exact fee had not been determined yet.

"We heard the governor say that we need to do what it takes to put these fires out. With that being said, there has not been a lot said about numbers. The idea is to get water on this fire first," Esquer said.

--Jennifer Delson


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Greg Ervice


Actually, the JRM Mars flying boats first flew in the mid-1940s, not the '30s as stated in the article. Five were built as transports for the Pacific area and as noted above, two solder on today.


Very interested in thePBM fighting fires. Q: ddid the plane actaully take off from L. Elsinore and fight the Harris fire?

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