Orange Cove remembers dedication, impact of late fire chief

Orange Cove Fire Protection District Chief Tom Greenwood reflects on the work of retired fire chief Richard Hicks after his death in November

(Courtesy of the Orange Cove Fire Protection District)
Serena Bettis
Published January 3, 2024  • 
10:00 am

ORANGE COVE – The city of Orange Cove is mourning a long-time public servant and former Orange Cove Fire Protection District chief who dedicated his life to the community.

Retired fire chief Richard “Gubby” Hicks died on Nov. 22, the fire protection district announced last month; he was 86 years old. Current fire chief Tom Greenwood said Hicks was loved by all in the community and left a “tremendous impact” on the city and its residents.

“I hope he’s remembered for his dedication not only to the fire district, but to the community of Orange Cove,” Greenwood said. “He was very involved with the youth during his younger days (and) he assisted so many families in their time of need. He was always there for the community; no matter what it was, he was there to help.” 

Hicks first became involved with the Orange Cove Fire Protection District in 1963 as a volunteer firefighter and eventually worked his way up to become fire chief in the mid-1980s. He retired more than a decade ago, but continued volunteering for the department and city up until the time of his death.

Greenwood said he first met Hicks when he was 13 years old and began to hang around the fire station. Hicks’ impact was especially felt by many young people in the community, through his roles as a mentor to younger firefighters and, outside of the fire district, as a coach to community sports teams. 

(Courtesy of the Orange Cove Fire Protection District)

On Hicks’ obituary provided online by Dignity Memorial, his nephew Tim Campbell wrote that everybody in Orange Cove knew who “Gubby” was, and that while other families moved away from Orange Cove, Hicks spent his life there “helping to make it the best it could be.” 

“He was a rare person that actually cared about his community and did what he could to help preserve it,” Campbell wrote.

Hicks also “donated money like you would not believe to the kids of this community,” Greenwood told the Orange Cove City Council at its meeting on Dec. 13. As a volunteer, Hicks was involved in the community through the police department’s Citizens on Patrol program and would help shut down the skate park every night “so he could stay active and do something,” Greenwood said. 

In addition to his dedication to the Orange Cove community, Greenwood said that Hicks should be remembered for his stories, as “he always had a story to tell you about something.” For all the years he knew him, Greenwood said his favorite memory of Hicks is the time spent being at the fire station, playing pool, laughing and telling stories. 

“He had a tradition that he had done for years that all the young guys laughed about,” Greenwood said. “He would go get a Pepsi and a bag of peanuts, (and) he would pour the peanuts in the Pepsi and drink it that way. Everybody kind of knew him for that.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter