3 Followed Father Into Firefighting

Times Staff Writer

Richard Olsen, a battalion chief with the Los Angeles Fire Department, remembers the big industrial fire downtown, when he had to tell the command post how he had deployed two other battalion chiefs and their units.

"I said, 'Chief Olsen has the rear and Chief Olsen has the inside,' " Olsen recalled with a chuckle.

Olsen, 47, and his brothers, Raymond and Robert, are all battalion chiefs. Richard works in the building administration section and his brothers are assigned to the fire prevention and fire suppression sections, respectively.

Blood relations are common in the firefighting business, Richard Olsen said, but they are the only brothers that have risen to the rank of battalion chief together in the department's history.

They followed in the footsteps of their late father, Walter Olsen, who served as a battalion chief at the Los Angeles International Airport station during his 33-year tenure with the department.

"Pop never encouraged any of us to become firemen," Richard said. "But there was something about the respect that he had for the Fire Department. And we figured there couldn't be anything better than becoming what he was."

Those who work with them said that the brothers' personalities are as different as their specialties.

"Bob is the gruff-and-tough guy with a heart of gold," said Chief Jim Young, a friend and colleague of the Olsens. "Dick is the sophisticated manager, and Ray is enthusiastic and does everything very well."

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