Second firefighter dies from Diamond Heights fire

June 4, 2011 6:16:24 PM PDT
There has been an outpouring of support after a second San Francisco firefighter died. Early Saturday morning Anthony Valerio passed away after suffering injuries in a house fire Thursday in Diamond Heights. His partner, Lt. Vincent Perez, was killed in the same fire after the two entered the building.

San Francisco's fire chief says this is the first time in her 21 years with the department that two firefighters have died in the same fire.

Slowly and silently, Valerio's body was wheeled to an awaiting van; the silence finally broken by the rain and his family's tears. The pain hung in the air outside San Francisco General Hospital - a place that became a gathering spot for the hopeful. Valerio's family and friends had been there around the clock since Thursday. Valerio and Perez were rushed to the hospital after the two were found unresponsive inside a burning house in Diamond Heights - a sudden blast knocked them down. Perez died late Thursday.

"It is particularly difficult, you're mourning the loss of one and then to have another one very close from the same fire is challenging," said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

Saturday was the first time Valerio's doctors gave details about the uphill battle the 53-year-old faced - including the fact that he was in cardiac arrest the moment he arrived at SF General.

"Between all the injuries he had from the initial blast, the smoke inhalation, the fact that he had a really bad lung injury, which was precipitated by what happened on the scene, but we try to do everything we can," said SF General Hospital Dr. Andre Campbell.

But in the end it wasn't enough. On this day, the firefighter's two families, his work family at Station 26 and his immediate family - realized Valerio's 40 hour long fight to survive was over.

"He was, as I always say, my best brother ever. I looked up to him. He will be greatly missed," said Valerio's sister Jackie Samsel.

"I've had a lot of trouble sleeping the last couple of days. I can't even think about life without him right now," said Valerio's brother Mark Valerio.

The fire department and the families have agreed to have a joint funeral for both Tony Valerio and Lt. Perez on Friday at Saint Mary's Cathedral.


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