Last Friday we told you the San Francisco Fire Department released its official report into the deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio. At the time, only a summary was available online. Now you can read the entire report:
San Francisco Fire Department releases report into deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and FF/PM Anthony Valerio. Flashover caused when glass in sliding door shattered.9 comments
An internal safety investigation on the June 2, 2011, fire at 133 Berkeley Way indicates that firefighters Lt. Vincent A. Perez and Firefighter Paramedic Anthony M. Valerio were killed by extremely high temperatures of up to 700 degrees caused by a sudden flare up, known as a flashover.
The intense fire event, which lasted several minutes, was caused when a window shattered in the room where the fire started, sending a rush of oxygen to the flames, according to the report. The heat was drawn up a stairwell from a below ground-level floor, where the fire began, to the ground-level floor where Valerio and Perez were standing.
"They were caught in a chimney," said Assistant Chief David Franklin, who worked on the team that prepared the report.
"We were well on our way to developing some of the new policies that, in some ways, could have made a difference," Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. "But basically, you'll find that the key factor was something that was a variable that we really had no control over. It was the failure of the window on the back end of the floor where Tony and Vince were."
The report describes a number of errors and communication problems at the scene and makes recommendations for how the handling of future incidents can be improved. But fire officials said the flashover was not something that could have easily been prevented or predicted.
"What Vincent and Tony did is exactly what all of us would have done," said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, noting that it is standard practice in the department to make an aggressive attack and try to get water on a fire as quickly as possible. "The key factor was something that we really had no control over."
Hayes-White said the department is developing a risk assessment policy to help determine how to approach fires, particularly in difficult situations such as that presented by the multi-level home.
Official release from the San Francisco Fire Department:
(San Francisco, CA – February 10, 2012) The San Francisco Fire Department held a press briefing today, reviewing the results of their Internal Safety Investigation related to the Line of Duty Deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio at a fire at 133 Berkeley Way on June 2, 2011.
Fire Investigators determined that the fire was accidental. The ignition source was “a nonspecific electrical sequence”, likely caused by either a failure in a ground outlet or in the appliance connected to the outlet.
The results of the Safety Investigation determined that the two Firefighters, who died as a result of internal and external thermal injuries, were conducting fire operations in a stairwell of the home above the fire room. The stairwell acted as a chimney when a large window failed in an oxygen deprived room that was below them, “causing them exposure to a rapid high heat event at temperatures that no Firefighter would have been able to survive”, said Assistant Deputy Chief Jose Velo, a member of the Safety Investigation Team.
Inspection of the Firefighters’ Personal Protective Clothing indicated that they performed according to their specifications. “We do have some concerns related to the handheld radios that all of our Firefighters carry”, said Chief Velo. “Both radio microphones appear to have failed from exposure to extreme heat conditions.”
Upon receiving the findings related to the radios, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White requested that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) research and develop a standard for Firefighter handheld radios.
The Safety Investigation Team identified three factors that contributed to the tragic outcome of this event. These factors include an excessive live fuel load which contributed to the growth of the fire, the layout of the building with the origin of the fire being in a room below grade and, extreme heat conditions accelerated by the failure of a window on the fire floor.
Chief Hayes-White indicated that this Safety Investigation was internal and initiated immediately following the rescue of the two Firefighters. Additionally, she stated that an independent Safety Investigation had also been conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH Report is pending.
“Twenty-five recommendations have been made as a result of information gathered from the Safety Investigation”, said Chief Hayes-White. “We take to heart all of the findings and recommendations in this report and will vow to do everything within our power to ensure a similar tragedy does not occur again in our Department.” The Department is in the process of implementing all recommendations and has initiated research and development where required.
President of San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798, Tom O’Connor said, “While there is nothing that we can do to change the outcome of that fateful day, we can learn lessons from this tragedy and make every effort to ensure that this does not happen again.”
“The two brave firefighters who died tragically in the line of duty in June last year – Lieutenant Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio are heroes,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “As a city, we will follow up on every recommendation and finding from the report issued today by the San Francisco Fire Department to ensure our first responders are as safe as possible as they serve the residents of San Francisco.”
The Fire Department has forwarded their report to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Cal-OSHA, the State Fire Marshal, and the CA Professional Firefighters Association for their review.
Cal OSHA fines San Francisco FD for two in, two out & more in fire that killed two firefighters. Chief disputes findings.12 comments
California's Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued fines in connection with the fire that killed Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53 on June 2. Both the agency and Chief Joanne Hayes-White say that the violations were not a direct cause of the firefighters' deaths. Fire officials go further and are disputing some of Cal OSHA's findings.
Cal OSHA issued four citations — three of them categorized as serious — and said personnel located outside the house did not maintain communications with the two crewmembers of Engine 26.
The fire department says it will appeal all the citations.
"We have documentation to prove that these citations are not based on what we think happened up there," said Asst. Dept. Chief Jose Velo.
In recommending that the Fire Department be fined $21,000, the state investigators also said the department had violated state rules requiring that two firefighters be designated outside to assist any two firefighters who venture into a life-threatening environment.
The state also cited the Fire Department for an incident – evidently before the fatal flareup – in which an unidentified battalion chief ventured into the burning building alone, without keeping in contact with Perez and Valerio. That was also deemed a serious violation of safety rules.
"These are serious in that they had protocols in place, but they weren't following them," said Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the worker safety agency. "There's no question that a lack of communications was a big issue here. The investigator found there was a breakdown there.
Lt. Vincent Perez (l) and FF/PM Anthony Valerio.
A second firefighter injured Thursday while battling a blaze in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood died this morning, the mayor's office said.
Anthony Valerio, 53, died this morning, two days after a fire at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way claimed the life of his colleague Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, Mayor Ed Lee said.
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.
Dozens of grim-faced firefighters from across the city flocked to the hospital to pay tribute to Valerio, whose death was yet another blow to the city, its firefighters and Engine Company 26.
The Diamond Heights station crew had already lost Lt. Vincent Perez, who died Thursday after being rushed to the hospital with Valerio and a third firefighter, Tracy Courtney. Courtney was released after being treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
UPDATE: More details about San Francisco fire that killed Lt. Vincent Perez & critically burned FF Anthony Valerio. Union president says they were above main body of fire.1 comment
There are new details from Thursday's fire in San Francisco that took the life of Lt. Vincent Perez and critically injured Firefighter Anthony Valerio. The two were part of the crew from Engine 26 inside a four story hillside home at 133 Berkeley Way in Diamond Heights. In the video above, union President Tom O'Connor says the two men were above the main body of fire when they were burned and mentions wind as a possible contributing factor behind the intense fire conditions.
Lt. Vincent Perez (l) and FF/PM Anthony Valerio.
According to an article by Jaxon Van Derbeken at the San Francisco Chronicle, Engine 26 arrived on the scene at 10:47 and Lt. perez soon could be heard coughing as he provided a situation report.
"We have an active fire, zero visibility, third floor," Perez said. The home's third floor is actually the ground level from the street, with two floors below it built into a hillside.
A scene commander, identified by firefighters as Battalion Chief Thomas Abbott, ordered a crew from Engine Company 24 to back up Perez's crew inside the building. For several minutes, however, scene commanders repeatedly tried to find the Engine 26 firefighters, without success.
Finally, what appeared to be the last communication from the doomed crew came over the radio. "This is 26, this is 26. … Battalion 6, what's your location?" said a muffled voice.
"Twenty-six, this is command, I need to know your …" came in reply.
"This is Engine 26, we're on the third…" At that point, the voice over the radio trailed off.
The paper reports it isn't clear exactly when the firefighters were injured. They were found alone.
The paper also confirms what an anonymous person posting a comment to STATter911.com reported, that the emergency alarm that went off around the time it was determined the firefighters were in trouble was an accidental activation from Engine 20. Engine 20 was still responding to the scene.
UPDATED: San Francisco Lt. Vincent Perez killed in house fire. FF Anthony Valerio is ‘fighting for his life’. Reported flashover. Listen to fireground audio.18 comments
UPDATE: Hospital and fire officials have told reporters the firefighter killed is Lt. Vincent Perez. Perez was 48-years-old. The firefighter critically burned is 53-year-old Anthony Valerio.
Perez was a San Francisco firefighter for 25 years. He was born and raised in the Mission District and Bernal Heights, and was known for his courage and sense of humor, firefighters union president Tom O'Connor said.
"He was always the first guy in a fire and the last guy out," O'Connor said. "He lightened up the mood at the firehouse … He was a firefighter's firefighter."
Speaking at San Francisco General Hospital, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told reporters (see raw video below) that one firefighter has died and another is fighting for his life following a fire reported at 10:44 AM at 133 Berkeley Way. A third injured firefighter is reported in fair condition.
The blaze started on the first floor of the home and spread to at least the second story, (Spokeswoman Mindy) Talmadge said.
Talmadge said firefighters saw a flash while inside the home. Around that time, a firefighter in the home activated an emergency alarm. Dispatch got the alert and notified the incident commander, who tried to reach the firefighter by radio but was unable to, Talmadge said.
Additional crew members were sent in, and they found two firefighters down and "pretty badly burned," Talmadge said.
The third injured firefighter was able to exit the home without help, she said.
The firefighters were hurt during a "flashover," when everything in a room ignites at once because of a sudden influx of oxygen, Talmadge said.
All three injured firefighters were found together. The two most badly hurt were unconscious, and the third was able to walk out on his own, Talmadge said.
The house appears to be two stories from the street, but has two additional stories built into the slope of a hill in the back.
Talmadge said such structures "historically have caused us problems." Firefighters rushing into such buildings often do not realize that they're on the ground floor and or grasp the layout, she said.