On the evening of February 4th, 2021, retired Battalion Chief Richard W. Baker passed away at his home in Old Hickory, Tennessee near Nashville. On that day we lost a dedicated, talented, contributing member of the Los Angeles Fire Department and Fire Service.
Battalion Chief Richard Baker was born on March 7, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles with his family as a young child. He attended North Hollywood High School and graduated in 1955. He briefly attended UCLA and worked for the Hollywood studios building movie sets before joining the Fire Department.
Battalion Chief Richard W. Baker was appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department on January 2, 1962 and graduated first in his class.
As a fireman, with his radio broadcasting style voice and professional appearance, he was used very early in his career as a spokesperson for the Department in public service commercials. This talent was used throughout his career in writing, directing, and narrating numerous training videos for the Department, including the 1975 Department training film, “Making of a Firefighter.”
Battalion Chief Baker was appointed to the rank of Captain on April 10, 1972 and Captain II on February 2, 1975. As a Captain he continued to represent the Department as Public Information Officer. He was promoted to Battalion Chief on June 17, 1979 where he served in Battalion 13, Training Section where he helped implement the new Photo/Video section in 1981, and Battalion 5 where he was selected to be the Department Training Chief Officer.
As a Los Angeles City Firefighter, each one of us takes great pride in our profession and devotion to serve the citizens of Los Angeles. Some among our members look for opportunities to serve the fire service beyond our assigned duties and assignments. Richard Baker was one of these individuals. When he joined the Fire Department, he also joined the CSFA, where he served for many years as Chair and Master of Ceremonies of the Valor Awards Committee and LAFFA, which he served as President. He was a charter member and first President of the “LA Firefighters Sertoma Club.” Richard was on the 1986 Centennial Book Review Committee as Book Review Committee Chairman. Chief Baker was Master of Ceremonies for the Annual Memorial to Firefighters at “Centotaph” on the south lawn of City Hall.
Richard and his wife, Victoria, hosted several fund raisers at their home for the “Downtown Women’s Centers,” aiding the homeless women.
In 1975, Richard developed and fabricated the Department rescue harness, where he received a commendation from the Fire Commission.
Richard represented the Department with Peter Lucarelli as technical advisors for the 1974 movie, “Towering Inferno,” starring Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. Chief Baker was also assigned as technical advisor to Irwin Allen’s “Code Red” television series.
Under the direction of Chief Engineer Donald Manning, Richard was instrumental in coordinating the expansion of the Training Section into the Training Division it is today.
While on the Department, Richard saw his daughter, Betsy, become one of the first women to be hired as a Los Angeles City Firefighter.
Battalion Chief Baker was a highly respected supervisor and fire ground officer who took great pride in being a Los Angeles City Firefighter.
Due to heart related issues, he was forced to retire on a disability pension on July 3, 1988 from Battalion 7.
In retirement, Chief Baker and Victoria continued to contribute to the communities where they lived. They were active members of the Lion’s Club and Kiwanis. Richard was active on the Power Squadron in the Friday Harbor Yacht Club and participated in numerous children’s Christmas benefit fund raisers.
Richard W. Baker is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Victoria, children, Bonnie Eckert, Betsy Spearman, Richard (Rick) William Baker, Jr. and five grandchildren. For those who knew him well, we lost a dear friend, loved one, and a true gentleman, in every sense and meaning of the word.
By Craig Yoder