San Francisco Firefighter Melinda (Mindy) Ohler died on January 13, 2003, of head injuries she received when she fell from her engine as it responded to a call on January 8. She was the first woman to die in the line of duty in the history of the San Francisco Fire Department.
Ohler, who was 40, had been on the fire department for 13 years. She was also a registered nurse and an active community volunteer, and was highly regarded by her co-workers.
According to a SFFD spokesperson, Ohler underwent surgery twice in the hours after the accident, to relieve bleeding or intracranial pressure from her injuries, but she never regained consciousness. Her family immediately traveled from Indiana to be with her in the hospital, with the assistance of San Francisco Firefighters' Local #798
It was not immediately known how Ohler came to fall from the engine as it left Station 42 on San Bruno Street, en route to a fire alarm at San Francisco International Airport. (The alarm was later canceled.) The SFFD has announced that out of respect for the family, the details of her death will remain confidential.
The SFFD press release of January 14 also said, "Consistent with FF Ohler's incredible character, her wishes and the wishes of her family, the ultimate gift of life is today being made. Many critically ill or injured patients will benefit from Mindy's multiple organ donation."
A memorial service for Firefighter Ohler was held on January 16 at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.
Donations in Melinda Ohler's name may be made to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, 665 Third St., Suite 345, San Francisco CA 94107, and the Local #798 Surviving Families Fund, 1139 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94103.
Remembering Mindy Ohler
My name is Gretchen Moore. I was lucky enough to have Mindy Ohler as my aunt. She recently died in the line of duty after suffering from head injuries after falling off of the fire truck.
I knew Mindy as my "cool" aunt, the one that taught me how to drive in her Firebird at 15, would go on extravagant shopping sprees just for me, and would plan awesome vacations to Cancun and Hawaii for my entire family. My mom is Mindy's older sister and although they are three years apart they have the exact same birthday, December 10.
I only knew this one side of Mindy. Little did I know until January 8th that she had this whole other family of brothers and sisters throughout her firehouse. The night we flew into San Francisco, a captain of the department. I had no idea until the next day what I was in for. From the moment we stepped off of the elevator, my mom and younger sister (Mindy's godchild) and me, we were greeted by hundreds of firefighters offering their condolences and sharing their memories of her.
My aunt was in the second class of women firefighters in San Francisco. Every single woman that was in her class came to the hospital to offer their support. I never knew how strong of a bond the fire department shared. It truly was remarkable.
You ladies truly are a part of a wonderful organization and will always remain in my heart as well as my aunt, as being just as strong as any man out there. She is my guardian angel and watches over me ever y day. I know she is watching over all of you as well.
Live every day like it's your last. And like my mom used to say to my aunt every time she got off the phone with her..."BEEEEEE CAREFUL!!!"
R.I.P., Mindy, and God Bless.
NETWORKING THE WOMEN OF TODAY'S FIREFIGHTING WORLD, AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO HELP BUILD THE FIRE SERVICE OF THE FUTURE