Thousands to honor fallen San Francisco firefighters 

click to enlarge Somber days: A vigil will be held tonight and a memorial service on Friday for two firefighters who died as a result of a two-alarm fire. (Examiner file photo) - SOMBER DAYS: A VIGIL WILL BE HELD TONIGHT AND A MEMORIAL SERVICE ON FRIDAY FOR TWO FIREFIGHTERS WHO DIED AS A RESULT OF A TWO-ALARM FIRE. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Somber days: A vigil will be held tonight and a memorial service on Friday for two firefighters who died as a result of a two-alarm fire. (Examiner file photo)
  • Somber days: A vigil will be held tonight and a memorial service on Friday for two firefighters who died as a result of a two-alarm fire. (Examiner file photo)

Thousands of firefighters from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., will gather in San Francisco on Friday to honor two city firefighters who lost their lives battling an inferno inside a Diamond Heights hillside home last week.

The memorial should exceed several thousand people, with firefighters, police officers, elected officials and other citizens gathering at Saint Mary’s Cathedral for a memorial at 12:30 p.m., according to Mayor Ed Lee.

There will be street closures around the cathedral, including Geary Boulevard, and motorists should consider alternate routes. So far, the Fire Department has confirmed that at least 40 fire vehicles from other jurisdictions will participate in a procession after the funeral service from the cathedral to the burial at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.

Also, a vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the cathedral. The rosary ceremony is more for family and friends, although it is still public, according to firefighters union President Tom O’Connor.

And as people continue to mourn the deaths of Anthony Valerio and Vincent Perez, Lee said city officials are still investigating the fire, which was eerily similar to a fatal 1995 blaze in the same neighborhood.

The Fire Department is involved in a multiagency probe that includes the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives. Lee has been updated on the progress of the investigation, and he said the way the fire spread from the back of the home increased the danger of fighting it.

“I think they know that these firefighters were rushing in,” Lee said of the investigation. “It was a really heated fire coming from the bottom up, kind of a nontraditional fire.

He also hinted that the results of the investigation could lead to changes in department policy.

“We’ll see if we can learn from it,” Lee said.

“These types of fires in these residential areas, it’s very critical for us to know, for myself also, how a two-alarm fire could be so deadly.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016

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