San Francisco firefighter dies in "aggressive fire" 

One firefighter is dead and another in critical condition after responding to a two-alarm fire in the Diamond Heights neighborhood.

Scroll down to see how the story has been unfolding.

The firefighter who died was identified by city officials as Lt. Vincent Perez. Perez was a former Marine and an Alameda County sheriff's deputy. He was a 21-year veteran of the San Francisco Fire Department and was in the same fire academy class as Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

The critically injured firefighter was identified as paramedic firefighter Anthony Valerio.

The fire was first reported around 10:45 a.m. in a four-story home in the 100 block of Berkeley Way, according to San Francisco Fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

Perez, Valerio and an unidentified female firefighter were inside the structure fighting what was described as an “aggressive fire” when an emergency alarm beacon attached to the active department employees went off, according to Talmadge. Staff tried to contact the firefighter, but was unable to do so. The communications center then notified the command staff of the problem.

Additional crew members were sent in, and they found two firefighters down and "pretty badly burned," Talmadge said.

Perez and Valerio were pulled out of the burning building, the woman walked out on her own.

Perez later went into full cardiac arrest after suffering burns and smoke inhalation during the morning blaze,  Hayes-White said at a news conference outside San Francisco General Hospital.

Flanked by Mayor Ed Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr and top fire brass, Hayes-White said the fallen firefighter was the first to die in the line of duty in San Francisco in 10 years.

"It's a tough day in San Francisco," said an emotional Hayes-White. "The Fire Department is like a family. We lost a family member today."

Valerio also suffering from burns and smoke inhalation was in "very critical condition" and "fighting for his life," and a third was in fair condition, Hayes-White added.

"It's going to be a tough few weeks and months ahead for us," Hayes-White said.

The body of the fallen firefighter was wheeled away from San Francisco General Hospital on a gurney covered vy and American flag, with city officials and firefighters standing and saluting.

Both Perez and Valerio worked out of Station 26, which covers the Diamond Heights neighborhood.

The female firefighter who was injured in the blaze was treated and released from SF General Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Early Thursday afternoon, crews remained at the scene of the fire putting out hot spots. American Red Cross personnel were speaking with the home's occupants and police were at the scene.

Patty Stanton, who lives two doors down from the home that burned, said she came out to walk her dog this morning and saw white smoke in her neighbor's garage, then saw three females run out of the home.

She said the smoke started to turn black and firefighters arrived.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee issued a statement about the death of the firefighter.

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of a SFFD firefighter who died today in the line of duty. This is a devastating day for our City, and I join all of San Francisco in expressing our deepest gratitude and profound sorrow for the loss one of our own.”

There was an immediate response from all of City Hall. 

Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes Diamond Heights, asked for a moment of silence during the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Mayoral candidate and former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was on hand to testify on another matter, used some of his time to honor the fallen firefighter saying it was a reminder that these are “ individuals who put their lives on the line every day and the sacrifice is part of it and an important part for us to remember.”

Former mayor and current California Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, who was scheduled to be in San Francisco for a press conference, also offered his condolences.

“I offer my most sincere condolences to the loved ones of the fallen San Francisco firefighter and wish for a speedy recovery to the two other firefighters that were injured in the line of duty this morning. Their heroic actions will never be forgotten and my thoughts and prayers are with the entire San Francisco community during this time of great sorrow.”

The American flag overhanging the entryway of City Hall was lowered to half mast in the afternoon.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com, bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Examiner Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini and wire services contributed to this report.


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