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Founder of Abbotsford aerial firefighting company Conair dies

Barry Marsden contributed to firefighting from the skies for more than 50 years

One of B.C.’s aerial firefighting pioneers has passed away.

Barry Marsden was one of the founding members of Abbotsford’s Conair Group Inc., as well as chairman and CEO. The company announced his passing on July 29.

They said he dedicated his life to protecting the world from wildfires, putting first and foremost the safety of the Conair team and partner firefighters.

“Although he would never acknowledge it, his contribution to the global aerial firefighting industry resulted in countless lives and resources being saved over the past five decades,” said Matt Bradley, President and COO of Conair. “Barry was committed to continually improving aerial firefighting services around the globe, tirelessly striving to incorporate innovative engineering and technology to produce safer and more effective missions.”

Marsden was a founding member of Conair in 1969, growing the company to over 350 employees and a fleet of 70 aircraft, the largest fixed-wing, privately owned aerial firefighting company in the world. Under his guidance, Conair expanded beyond the borders of B.C., offering aerial firefighting services globally, with operations in France, Australia and the United States. During the company’s 52-year history, Marsden led the Conair group in developing hundreds of Supplemental Type Certificates, converting over 15 aircraft types into aerial firefighters and modifying over 175 individual aircraft. The most recent Next Generation aerial firefighter added to his legacy is the Dash 8-400AT, currently operating its first fire season in North America.

Marsden was an accomplished pilot and aerial firefighter, accumulating over 10,000 hours of flight time; a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer; a recipient of the Medaille De L’Aeronautique from France; an inducted member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame; and the recipient of the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada, in recognition of his contributions to the growth of Canada’s aviation industry.

“Conair is truly a family, supporting each other, led by a great man. In everything we do moving forward, Barry will be with us. He loved every aspect of aerial firefighting and was devoted to the well being of our team, our agency customers, and our fellow firefighters,” said Bradley. “We extend our sincere condolences to Barry’s wife, children, and family. We share in their loss.”

Originally called Conair Aviation Ltd., the company was formed as a subsidiary of Skyway Air Services of Langley.

READ MORE: Abbotsford’s Conair expanding fleet of firefighting airtankers


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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