Derek K. Chew

June 2, 1951 – Jan. 14, 2022

Derek K. Chew, age 70, passed away on Jan. 14. With a love for his family and a passion for motorcycles, classic cars, the fire department and delicious food, Derek lived a vibrant and adventurous life.

Derek, affectionately known as “Rick” or “Ricky,” was born on June 2, 1951 in Los Angeles to Chuck and Betty Chew. As the youngest of four siblings, Rick spent his childhood in Chinatown where he attended Castelar Elementary School. Growing up, he enjoyed playing with his siblings and cousins, riding dirt bikes around Elephant Hill, and working at K.G. Louie – his family’s store. K.G. Louie was opened in 1938 by his grandfather as one of the original businesses of New Chinatown and is still family owned and operated today. Rick later attended Franklin High School and East Los Angeles Junior College, where he obtained his AA degree in liberal arts.

In 1971, he was hired onto the Southern Pacific Railroad and was subsequently promoted to the role of locomotive engineer. He was the first Chinese American engineer on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

In 1976, he graduated from the fire department training academy and was sworn in as a firefighter, becoming the first Chinese American fireman on the Los Angeles City Fire Dept. He was later recognized as a Chinese American pioneer by the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

In 1978, he transferred to Fire Station 90 where he became helitack qualified enabling him to assist rescue operations via a helicopter. In 1985, he became a member of the arson section of the fire department as a full time arson investigator. Throughout the 35 years of his LAFD career he fought countless fires and conducted thousands of fire scene investigations by determining the origin and cause of fires and testifying as an expert in court. He retired in January 2011.

In 1980, he married the love of his life, Linda. For over 40 years, they built a wonderful family with three children. He was particularly elated to welcome into the world his first grandchild this past summer.

Rick is survived by his wife Linda; children Wesley, David and Kathryn; sister Nancy; daughter-in-law Nicole; son-in-law Jacob; and his granddaughter Naomi.
Aside from spending time with loved ones, Rick had a lifelong passion for motorcycles and classic cars. In 2001, Rick started Early Rodders, a weekly gathering of car enthusiasts. Just last year, Early Rodders celebrated its 20th anniversary and was recognized as the 2021 Organization of the Year by the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce for its dedicated service to the community. This service was exemplified by the Early Rodders annual 9/11 Remembrance Motorcade, assistance with the LA County Fire Dept.’s Spark of Love toy drive, and participation in countless other community events.

Rick inspired many people with his relentless generosity, avid sense of adventure and true joy of life. He will be missed by many.
Celebration of life to be announced.