D.C. Fire Department Chief Theodore R. Coleman's absence at the funeral Saturday of Clifford R. Oliver, a 20-year veteran firefighter who died of a cerebral hemorrhage after participating in an advanced lifesaving course, has angered some of Oliver's fellow firefighters.

Oliver was a driver for Rescue Squad No. 3 and his superior, Capt. Ron Danner, said yesterday that some of the firefighters who worked with Oliver were upset that Colemen did not attend the funeral.

"I think they are real concerned he wasn't there," said Danner. "He is the boss and a lot of guys feel he has lost one of his men. There were a lot of officials from other jurisdictions there to pay their respects to a fallen firefighter. They feel for them to be there, there was certainly no reason our boss couldn't be there."

Capt. Theodore O. Holmes, spokesman for the fire department, said Coleman attended Oliver's wake, paid his respects to the family and fulfilled his reponsibilities.

"There were a goodly number of representatives at the funeral sent by the fire chief," said Holmes.

"The department provided resources from vehicles to the {engine} that the casket was resting on . . . . The chief made a personal decision not to attend the funeral. He felt he had met his duty and obligation both as chief of this department and in responding to the need of the family," Holmes added.

Holmes said he does not know why the chief did not attend and declined a reporter's request to speak with Coleman. Holmes also refused to grant Oliver's colleagues permission to talk to a reporter because they were on duty.

City Administrator Thomas M. Downs, who attended Oliver's funeral and was questioned by reporters about Coleman's absence, said yesterday he told Coleman that he "probably should respond directly and make a statement if it became necessary."

Downs said that when he noticed Coleman was not at the funeral, he was concerned about who would respond to any questions the family might have. Downs said he was told later that Coleman had met with the family before the service.

When asked if Coleman should make a point of attending the funerals of firefighters, Downs said, "I think Coleman should speak to that."