As we previously reported, the San Francisco Fire Department was hit with up to $21,000 in fines from Cal/OSHA for violations of its own protocols during a fire that killed two veteran firefighters. However, the SFFD’s not taking this lying down, and is ready to fight the charges.
Firefighter/paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53, and Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, died from injuries suffered while battling a fire at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way in Diamond Heights neighborhood on June 2.
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 spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said days after the fire.
According to Cal/OSHA, the fire department failed to follow safety procedures for workers entering a life-threatening environment during and before the response.
The violations involved a failure to maintain sufficient contact and communication among employees and a failure to assign employees to certain roles only when those assignments do not jeopardize the safety of firefighters working at the scene, according to Cal/OSHA documents.
The fire department was also cited with a general violation after the state agency determined that the department failed to ensure that its employees complied with its injury and illness prevention program.
The citations also indicate that there was a period of time that passed when personnel outside the home did not maintain communication with the two Engine 26 crew members inside, Perez and Valerio.
They also noted that a battalion chief who entered the house alone did not maintain contact with other firefighters inside the home, and that there were not enough personnel outside the home to ensure that operations could proceed without jeopardizing the safety of those inside.
According to Cal/OSHA, the citations were issued on Nov. 25 and must be remedied by Dec. 28. Each severe violation carries a proposed penalty of $6,750, while the general violation carries a penalty of $750, for a total of $21,000 in proposed penalties.
Now, as the Chron reports, SFFD officials are fighting back against the charges and challenging the $21,000 in state fines.
The Ex says that Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said that “the OSHA results don’t jibe with what fire officials noted in reports,” and that the firefighters union president said Cal/OSHA “appears to be unfairly applying suburban standards to an urban firefighting style.”
Asst. Dept. Chief Jose Velo tells ABC7 that “We have documentation to prove that these citations are not based on what we think happened up there.”
According to the Ex, SFFD will be meeting with Cal/OSHA officials this week, “with a formal appeal to follow.”