An arsonist spread flammable liquid on the stairs of an apartment building from the fourth floor to the second floor and started a fire. The fire progressed quickly and trapped a number of building occupants in their apartments.
Firefighter Olander and his ladder company were dispatched to the scene. They proceeded to the rear of the structure and were ordered to effect the rescue of victims trapped by the fire and awaiting rescue at windows on the fourth floor. Due to limited staffing, firefighters were unable to raise a 50-foot ground ladder, and electrical wires in the alley prevented the use of the aerial ladder. Firefighter Olander and 2 other firefighters were in the process of raising a 35-foot ground ladder to a fourth story window. Firefighter Olander was footing the ladder. A fire victim who jumped from the fourth story struck a van and Firefighter Olander simultaneously.
Firefighter Olander was knocked to the ground but was able to get back on his feet and continue with rescue efforts. After the incident was concluded, Firefighter Olander complained of severe head, neck, and back pain. Firefighter Olander visited a medical facility at the end of his shift. He was treated and released. Over the next several weeks, Firefighter Olander continued to suffer severe headaches. On January 26, 2002, he collapsed and was admitted to a hospital. He remained in a coma until his death on February 7, 2002.
The fire eventually went to 3 alarms. Two residents of the apartment building were killed, a child was stillborn due to injuries received by the mother, and 11 other residents were injured.
Firefighter Olander’s death was caused by a ruptured berry aneurysm, a form of cerebral aneurysm.
For additional information regarding this incident, please refer to NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program report F2002-14 (www.cdc.gov/niosh/face200214.html).