A park in Langford has been named Flying Firemen Park to commemorate two pilots whose waterbomber plane crashed into Skirt Mountain while fighting a fire.
Alex Davidson and Robert “Paddy” Moore founded the Flying Firemen in 1965 to fight fires in the province. The pair fought 165 fires across British Columbia in their first year.
On July 16, 1967 the two went to fight a fire that sparked on Skirt Mountain in Langford. The wing of their Canso plane clipped a tree, and their plane crashed. The two were killed instantly.
The park is located at 1851 Bear Mountain Parkway and features open greenspace, outdoor exercise equipment, and an off-leash dog area.
“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 in a news release. “This memorial park will serve as a reminder to all of the sacrifices made by the Flying Firemen and our local first responders.”
Davidson was the original founder of the group, and was joined later by Moore. The pair were pilots in the Second World War.
“Our father was a pioneer in aviation as were all those guys who flew back then, they put stuff together and they flew basically string bags around, they just loved to fly and they’d fly anything,” said Craig Davidson, Alex Davidson’s son. “He was the guy that did all the test flying for the actual water pick up and delivery drop systems and they did that on an old, I think it was Junkers 57 float plane that was their operation.”
Craig says he was the “gas jocky” for the Flying Firemen and at 14 would be allowed to come along on the firefighting efforts.
“I’d get to fly in the plane, which was pretty cool,” Craig said. “Imagine a 14 year old being able to sit at the bulk head looking into the cock pit and you’re flying into a fire. And these guys were all World War II aces, and they flew like it, so it was pretty exciting times for a young kid.”
He says having the park dedicated for the two pilots is an incredible honour for his family.
During the war, Davidson flew Spitfire fighters in combat over Europe and trained Czech pilots leading up to the Battle of Britain.
Moore was 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.
It has not been determined who was flying the plane at the time of the crash.