A second firefighter injured Thursday while battling a blaze in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood died Saturday morning, bringing an end to his almost three decades of service to the city, the San Francisco Fire Department said.
Firefighter and paramedic Anthony “Tony” Valerio, 53, died at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, two days after a fire at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way claimed the life of his colleague Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, the fire department said.
Valerio grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from El Camino High School, City College of San Francisco, and San Francisco State University.
He spent 13 years with the city’s Department of Public Health and 14 years with the fire department.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for the members of the San Francisco Fire Department,” fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said in a statement today.
Thursday was the first time in eight years a San Francisco firefighter has died on the job.
Hayes-White said that today also marked the first time in her 21 years with the department that two people were killed in the line of duty while responding to a single incident.
“They will be greatly missed,” she added.
Mayor Ed Lee joined Hayes-White to announce Valerio’s death Saturday morning at San Francisco General Hospital, where both men succumbed to their injuries.
Perez, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and 21-year veteran of the fire department, died about an hour after firefighters responded to the blaze at 10:45 a.m. Valerio remained in critical condition until Saturday morning.
The two men were badly burned when objects in the room they were in heated to the point of ignition, a dangerous phenomenon known as “flashover,” fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.
A female firefighter also suffered smoke inhalation while fighting the blaze, but she was treated and released from the hospital.
Lee said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths and called the loss a “terrible tragedy” for the city.
“These two men have dedicated their lives to protecting the people of San Francisco for decades,” Lee said.
“We are forever appreciative for the brave men and women of the San Francisco Fire Department who put their lives on the line every day for us.”
On Thursday, Lee ordered that all flags at city-owned sites be flown at half-staff in honor of the firefighters, while Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the same for flags at the state Capitol in Sacramento.
San Jose firefighters also lowered their flags to show solidarity with the San Francisco Fire Department, San Jose fire Capt. Scott Kouns said.
The San Francisco firefighters union has established trust accounts for the Perez and Valerio families at the San Francisco Fire Credit Union. Donations can be sent to the credit union at 3201 California St., San Francisco, 94118.
Funeral services for the men are pending.
Condolence messages can be sent to Fire Station 26, 80 Digby St., San Francisco, 94131.
Janna Brancolini, Bay City News