While Fire Chief Daryl Osby is known to the public as the leader of our Department, there is one other position in our ranks that serves as our official face and voice during major emergencies – the Public Information Officer (PIO). On April 1, Fire Captain Tom Richards took on the responsibility from recently promoted Battalion Chief Mark Savage to act as the primary spokesperson for LACoFD to the media and the public.
"I've always said I'm perfect for the job of PIO because no one likes to hear themselves talk more than me," jokes the gregarious Richards, who becomes all business when it comes to serving our residents. "We are completely a service industry," he says. "My brother in the restaurant business makes pies, cakes and breads. But our Department – we make calls. The only thing we have to offer is public service, and the quicker we can understand that the quicker we can move forward as a Department."
Richards has been with our Department since 1994 when he joined on as a member of the 90th Recruit Class. While growing up in Cypress, his interest in becoming a firefighter was sparked by a neighbor who was a fire captain for the Orange County Fire Department. His interest was cemented when he attended a career day in high school where he learned more about the firefighting profession and realized it would be a good fit for him. After graduating from high school, Richards enlisted in the Air Force as a firefighter, and was stationed in Germany, where he met his wife. Upon leaving the service, he was first hired as a firefighter with McDonnell Douglas in Torrance, and then in Long Beach, before joining our ranks. "One of the greatest things about our Department is that it's diverse in what it offers to the community and what it offers to its employees," he says. "There are so many different positions you can work in, and different places you can go. I've worked at 12 stations and four office jobs in the 18 years I've been on the job."
Over the years Richards' assignments have included serving the communities of Altadena, Gardena, West Hollywood, Norwalk, Inglewood, Malibu and Lawndale. His administrative positions include working the Petrochem, Explosives and Film Units. He credits this broad experience as a major asset in his new duties of providing information to the media and public during emergency incidents, press conferences and other events. But when asked about his most memorable experience of his 18-year career with our Department, it all comes down to the people. Says Richards, "Helping people is what I really enjoy, not just the community members, but also the people on the job. Whether it's a medical response for a resident, or cooking for my crewmates, it's about the people."