Sean Rickards is a professional pilot with over 30 years of experience in the helicopter industry. He embarked on his career in the NWT and Western Canada, gaining invaluable experience in various regions and industries. In 2001, he joined Yellowhead Helicopters as the Vanderhoof Base Manager and, within a few years, earned the position of Regional Manager for Yellowhead Helicopters’ northern operations. In his role, he oversaw and managed the company’s helicopter services in the region, ensuring safe and efficient operations.
In 2014, Sean was appointed Director of Operations for Yellowhead Helicopters. While in this position, he played a pivotal role in guiding the company through a significant period of growth as the company expanded to over 40 aircraft. Having accumulated more than 10,000 flight hours, a significant portion of which was devoted to aerial firefighting, Sean has supported countless communities, industries, and projects across Western Canada. His extensive experience affords him a unique aerial perspective that enables him to comprehend the intricate dynamics of firefighting operations.
Larry Watkinson is the Deputy Fire Chief for the City of Kelowna. Larry has held a Chief Officer rank in the fire service for over 20 years. Larry is also a Structure Branch for BC Wildfire Service and has been deployed to a number of large provincial wildfire events establishing complex Structure Protection and Defense operations. As a Fire Service Leader, he has earned professional designations of Professional Manager (P.Mgr), and Chartered Manager (C.Mgr) from the Canadian Institute of Management, and Executive Chief Fire Officer (ECFO) designation from the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. Larry has receive recognition in developing advanced training for structure protection/defense operations, and creating the Provincial WUI conference for structural firefighters.
From its home base of Bluff Lake just south of Tatla Lake, White Saddle Air provides a range of helicopter services in the region, including its continual investment in fire suppression. White Saddle underlined its commitment to the sector by acquiring Canada’s first commercial Bell 407 GXi in 2019, which was followed by a second 407 GXi purchase a couple of years later. White Saddle also provides helicopter air charters to the Coast Mountain Range and Cariboo Chilcotin Plateau of British Columbia. The operation has been flying people in and around the Coast Mountains for the past 48 years. Located near the base of Mount Waddington, British Columbia’s highest peak, this remote region of BC offers the adventurer some of the richest wilderness grounds in the world.
Greg Adams is an Air Attack Officer with the BC Wildfire Service. Greg’s journey in wildfire started out as a summer job to pay for university in 1994 when he joined the Alberta Rappel Program. It was only supposed to be for 4 years but after completing his Bachelor of Education, he realized that wildland firefighting was more his style and spent 18 years with Alberta Rappel. Initial attack firefighting with a 7-person crew that could rappel from a medium helicopter was the best job in the world. In 2014, the opportunity to become an Air Attack Officer in BC presented itself and Greg jumped in and found the other best job in world, coordinating the aerial attack on wildfires. Integrating land-based airtankers with skimmers and helicopters to support ground firefighting brings many challenges and many rewards. Greg also functions as the Provincial Airtanker Coordination Officer, managing the airtanker responses to wildfires across British Columbia.
Tom DeSorcy joined the fire service in 1983 and became the first paid firefighter in his hometown of Hope, B.C., when he became fire chief in 2000, retiring in 2023. DeSorcy is married with children and grandchildren. He is equally at home at a bonspiel, on the golf course, or in the kitchen, and continues to enjoy his connections to the fire service. E-mail Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org and watch for him on social media.
Thomas Hoppe is a commercial pilot, Class IV Flight Instructor, Advanced RPAS Pilot and Transport Canada Advanced RPAS Flight Reviewer. He has been employed in the Geomatics industry since 1986 with international and unique positioning technology experience. He began his surveying career in Ontario and worked in several locations throughout North America, holding multiple roles from Professional Surveyor, Geomatics Business Development, Assistant Manager PART 702 Aerial Survey Operations, RPAS Pilot – Operations Manager, GNSS/RPAS Equipment Sales and GNSS/RPAS Technical Support, RPAS Ground School / Flight Instructor, Transport Canada Authorized Flight Reviewer (RPAS), Technical Trainer and National GNSS Training Manager.
His home base is in Lake Country, BC, near Kelowna, Thomas currently provides RPAS aerial surveys, contract RPAS pilot services, RPAS data processing and aerial survey support services throughout Canada. His vision for professional services is to integrate new technologies and procedures in aviation and surveying to supply clients with timely and cost-effective solutions.
Wayne Coulson is the youngest son of Cliff Coulson who founded Coulson Forest Products Ltd. in 1960. Wayne began his career in 1978 in the Forestry and Wood Products business, before taking over the administrative side of the family business in late 1984.
Under Wayne’s leadership as President and CEO, the Coulson Group has evolved into a provider of a wide range of management, support and technical services through eight operational companies. Over the last 55 years, the Coulson Group has consistently provided clients and customers with quality services and products, highly qualified technical staff and innovative support solutions.
The Coulson Group of companies is led and managed by Wayne Coulson and his sons Foster and Britt. Since 2007, Wayne has been working alongside his two sons, Britt and Foster Coulson, developing proprietary technology making Coulson a leading company in the global fight against wildfires. He has been actively involved with research and development, as well as quality control, operation, and inspections of the company’s state-of-the-art equipment ensuring optimal functionality so and that it meets and exceeds all contractual requirements. His hands-on approach, along, with Britt and Foster, has proven to be a winning strategy accelerating Coulson Aviation to the forefront in the aerial firefighting industry.
Michael Benson joined Conair after a 30-year career in wildfire, most recently leading the wildfire operations research program at FPInnovations, a not-for-profit research and development organization based in Canada. Prior to FPInnovations, Michael led the airtanker program for British Columbia Wildfire Service, responding to wildfires spread over nearly 1 million sq kilometers with both amphibious water bombers and retardant airtankers. Michael’s hands-on experience in aerial firefighting, combined with his research in methods to protect forests and communities from wildfires, offers global agencies a wealth of support as they address the complex challenge of responding to escalating wildfire behaviour in the face of climate change.