Washington firefighter honored for line of duty death after HIV infection
Federal Way, WA, United States (4E) – A 59-year-old Washington firefighter, who became the first South King Fire and Rescue to be honored for dying in the line of duty, was also one of the first in the country to receive the recognition for contracting HIV on the job.
The Memorial Pike Pole, which honors Washington state firefighters who died in the line of duty, was brought to South King Fire and Rescue last Monday, with Doug Waller’s name on a ribbon.
Waller, a 24 year veteran with South King Fire and Rescue, died six years after retiring.
Sharon Waller claimed that her husband came to her saying something is wrong, that he is having trouble speaking and writing.
Test results revealed that Waller had Human Immunodeficiency Virus, he died soon after.
It was documented that shortly before his retirement in 2000, Waller aided a profusely bleeding patient infected with acquired immune deficiency syndrome without wearing gloves. But preliminary HIV test came back negative.
The news shocked his fellow firefighters.
Battalion Chief Chuck Kahler said that the question came up, ‘when was this contacted?’
Assistant Chief Gordie Olson noted that Waller’s exposure had been documented, “but sat in a file unknown and kind of forgotten until this came up.”
Although it took years, Waller’s death in 2006 was finally declared as a presumptive illness related to his service.
It was reported that his “line of duty death” recognition not only honors him, but allows his family to receive benefits, and his fellow firefighters to feel more secure.
Kahler emphasized that “should something like this happen to any of us, we feel better that our families will be taken care of.”