City of Langford Opens New Community Park in Memory of Flying Firemen
(Langford, B.C.) – Today, the City of Langford announced the opening and dedication of Flying Firemen Park, located at 1851 Bear Mountain Parkway. The park is named after the original Flying Firemen, Alex Davidson, and Robert Moore whose waterbomber plane crashed while fighting the Skirt Mountain fire in Langford in 1967. Situated on dedicated parkland acquired by the City of Langford as part of the 40% park and open space requirement included in the Bear Mountain Master Development Agreement, Flying Firemen Park features open greenspace, outdoor exercise equipment, and an off-leash dog area. This dedicated parkland and open space is in addition to the 75-acres of parkland being dedicated to the City from South Point and Westview. The 75-acres represents 41% of the development lands. 65-acres will be dedicated by years end, the remaining 10-acres will be dedicated in 2023.
“On behalf of Langford Council, we are honoured to commemorate the history of the Flying Firemen and acknowledge their bravery, sacrifice and dedication to public safety,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “This memorial park will serve as a reminder to all of the sacrifices made by the Flying Firemen and our local first responders.”
Founded in 1965 by Alex Davidson and later joined by fellow WWII pilot Robert Moore, using waterbomber airplanes, the Flying Firemen put out 165 fires across British Columbia in their first year. On the afternoon of Sunday, July 16, 1967, a forest fire ignited on the southwest face of Langford’s Skirt Mountain. The blaze quickly grew, and an urgent call went out to the Flying Firemen to quench the inferno. Tragically, as Davidson and Moore fought the Skirt Mountain fire, the left wing of their Canso clipped a tree, and the plane crashed into the steep southwest slope of the mountain. Both men were killed instantly. Despite such a heartbreaking setback, the Flying Firemen eventually grew into the largest amphibious waterbombing outfit in the world, with nearly 40 planes. The outfit dissolved in 1996.
“On behalf of the family of Alex Davidson, we would like to thank the City of Langford for the recognition bestowed upon our father and Paddy Moore, two brave men who perished fighting a blaze a very short distance from Flying Firemen Park.” – Craig Davidson, son of Alex Davidson.
2022 marks the 55th anniversary of the Skirt Mountain crash. The City of Langford thanks the Flying Firemen and all first responders for their bravery, sacrifice and dedication to public safety.
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On the afternoon of Sunday, July 16, 1967, as a heat wave enveloped British Columbia, a forest fire ignited on the southwest face of Langford’s Skirt Mountain. The blaze quickly grew, and at 4:30 p.m., an urgent call went out to a local company, The Flying Firemen, to quench the inferno.
Alex Davidson, the company president, and co-pilot Robert Moore boarded their #2 Canso water bomber and took off from the Patricia Bay airport. They skimmed along Saanich Inlet, scooping up 1000 gallons of water into the plane’s belly and then dumping it on the flames. A crowd gathered along the Trans-Canada Highway to watch as the pilots roared back and forth between the inlet and the fire — until tragedy struck.
Alex Davidson had learned to fly with the Royal Canadian Air Force. During World War II, he flew Spitfire fighters in combat over Europe and trained Czech pilots leading up to the Battle of Britain. After the war, he attended university and started a family before re-enlisting with the Royal Canadian Navy and training pilots at Victoria’s Pat Bay air station. In 1955, Davidson began working as a test pilot for the local branch of the UK firm Fairey Aviation, which specialized in converting military aircraft for civilian use, including giant Martin Mars flying boats, rebuilt as water bombers.
Davidson became a pioneer in the techniques of fighting fires from the sky. The Martin Mars planes were owned by logging companies, and Davidson saw an opportunity to provide similar help to the B.C. Forest Service, which lacked planes of its own. So, in 1965, he started The Flying Firemen with two PBY-5A Cansos (an amphibious WWII submarine chaser and rescue plane) refitted as water bombers. That year, they put out 165 fires across the province.
Davidson bought another Canso and recruited a fellow WWII ace, Robert “Paddy” Moore, to captain it. Born in Northern Ireland, Moore received a Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry, skill and devotion to duty flying for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in the South Pacific. Although he was a trained mathematician, after the war he became the chief test pilot for Fairey Aviation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. On one flight, Moore’s plane failed over the city, and he managed to maneuver the aircraft to the sea before ejecting, saving countless lives. Through Fairey, he also met Alex Davidson and fatefully agreed to join The Flying Firemen for the 1967 fire season.
On July 16, as Davidson and Moore waterbombed the Skirt Mountain fire, the left wing of their Canso clipped a tree, and the plane crashed into the steep southwest slope of the mountain. Both men were killed instantly. Davidson was 43, Moore was 45, and both were married with young families. Their funeral service was attended by fellow test pilots from as far away as England and Africa. A subsequent inquiry decided the cause of the crash was “misjudgement of altitude” but could not determine who was piloting the plane at the time. Despite such a tragic setback, The Flying Firemen eventually grew into the largest amphibious waterbombing outfit in the world with nearly 40 planes until it dissolved in 1996.
This park was completed in 2022, the 55th anniversary of the crash. As a tribute to the sacrifices and local history, as well as all the firefighters that keep the public safe, this park has been named Flying Firemen Park.