Victims In Fatal Duluth Apartment Fire Were Mother, Son; Firefighters Union Releases Statement

DULUTH, Minn. — We’re getting a new look at just how intense the flames were for firefighters and residents of an apartment building early Saturday morning in Duluth that killed two people and injured two firefighters.

The fire victims were a mother and son who lived together, and that son, according to family, actually helped save lives in a 2020 fire in the same apartment building.

Fire Victims Together

Michelle (Micki) Olson and her son, Patrick

Michelle Olson, 52, and her son, Patrick Olson, 24, died in the fire.

Micki, as she was more commonly known as, worked at Essentia Health. Patrick worked at a local Speedway in Duluth.

The two lived together in the apartment building on 600 block of East 3rd Street.

Michelle was rescued by Duluth firefighters from a top-story window, but she later died from her injuries at a hospital.

Firefighters tried to rescue Patrick on a second attempt, but firefighters were forced to evacuate after the room flashed over with flames.

Patrick was later found deceased inside.

A man who said he is the building’s housekeeper was on site Sunday to help secure the building, while reflecting on the tragedy.

“The people that lost their lives and their families and stuff. I feel for them. Some cats died, too, pretty bad when your pets and stuff. It affects everybody that lives around, neighbors. People have been stopping by, checking it out, seeing what happened,” said Randy Shelley, the building’s housekeeper.

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Duluth firefighters pull back after fire flashed over.

Fire officials said the building was up to code at the time of the fire. This is the third fatal fire in the building since 2020.

The building could be demolished this time around, according to officials.

Meanwhile, the Olson family told FOX 21 a GoFundMe has been set up to help with the unexpected funeral costs.

As for the rest of the tenants in the building, the Northland chapter of the Red Cross is helping 12 individuals who occupied seven units, as the building is not habitable.

Two firefighters suffered burns while trying to rescue as many people as possible from the apartment.  They were treated and released from a hospital Saturday.

Duluth Firefighters Local 101 released the following statement to FOX 21 Sunday:

“The fatal Fire on the 600 Block of East 3rd street is a tragedy. Duluth Fire Fighters’ hearts go out to the victims and their families. Yesterday’s fire exemplifies the courage and selfless sacrifices that our firefighters are willing to make on behalf of Duluth’s citizens every day.

Two firefighters sustained burns while making every effort to give those victims a chance. This fire is exactly why this Union fights so hard to fully staff our fire trucks. Know that this fire could have been much worse if the fire trucks on scene were not properly staffed.

Staffing levels affect the safety of firefighters and Duluthians alike. IAFF Local 101 could not be more proud of its members and the work they did at yesterday’s fire.

President Adam Casillas Duluth

Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 101”Vlcsnap 2023 04 23 22h54m44s136

The reference to staffing by the union comes as the union is speaking out about its share of $383,000 in city wide budget cuts at roughly $72,000 this year. The union told FOX 21 the cuts will affect staffing and safety.  The union said three of the department’s fire trucks already don’t meet the minimum national staffing standard of four firefighters per rig to make entry into a burning building.

The budget cuts will be in front of the city council again Monday, April 24, in a resolution from Mayor Emily Larson and her administration that asks the council to again use pandemic relief funds to avoid cuts this year.

Mayor Larson has said the $383,000 in cuts reflects the council’s one-percent cut in her administration’s levy proposal last year for a status quo budget this year.

Below is the department-by-department breakdown of cuts:

Police: 98,402

Fire: 72,407

Transfers and Other Functions: 56,388

Property, Parks & Libraries: 53,098

Public Works and Utilities: 39,492

Administrative Services: 22,568

Legislative and Executive: 15,109

Planning & Construction Services: 14,677

Finance: 10,807


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