Mr. Richards, who retired in 1999, died Sunday, Jan. 1, at home in Redwood City. He was 65.
"He was like a bona fide hero," Mr. Richards' son Tim, also a firefighter for the Woodside district, said in a telephone interview when asked for his impressions of his dad as a firefighter. "All my friends really looked up to him."
Woodside district Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso described Mr. Richards as "happy go lucky" and someone who rarely missed a day of work.
When he was off duty, Mr. Richards kept with him a police-band scanner so he could go to fires and help out with logistics, his son said. If his sons were in the car at the time, they would sometimes accompany him to observe, Tim said.
"He was a great storyteller," Tim said. "He could tell a story to the point where you kind of wanted to hear more because it was so funny (or) so bizarre."
Some firefighters go into management. Mr. Richards did that, but as the District 9 vice president for the firefighter's union. As a negotiator, he was "very straightforward," his son said. "He was pretty well liked by both sides."
Mr. Richards had many off-duty interests, his son said, including collecting coins, clocks and model trains, and the daunting Japanese art form of bonsai, the husbandry of miniature but full grown trees in table-top pots.
"He would bonsai anything that would allow him to," Tim said. His dad's collection included a maple, cedars, redwoods and Japanese varieties.
In addition to his son Tim of Palo Cedro, California, Mr. Richards is survived by his wife Wendy of Redwood City; son Matthew of Redwood City; and mother Betty Brieger of Grants Pass, Oregon.
The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to the San Francisco-based Yosemite Conservancy.
Go to yosemiteconservancy.org or call 800-469-7275 for more information on the conservancy.