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Report: San Francisco firefighters died in 'flash over'

(uReport/ABC7)
February 10, 2012 5:36:28 PM PST
The final report on the last house fire two San Francisco firefighters ever fought has been released.

Firefighter Anthony Valerio and Lt. Vincent Perez were killed in a Diamond Heights house fire last June. They died in a phenomenon called a "flash over," something every firefighter fears. An 8-month San Francisco Fire Department investigation concluded that they died because of a broken window that no one could have predicted. It also concluded that the two firefighters did everything they should have done that morning.

The report says the two men were suddenly exposed to extreme heats between 550 and 700 degrees when a window broke in the room where the fire had begun. Oxygen rushed in, causing the flash of heat that raced over the fireman. They were found unconscious about seven minutes later.

"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."

Lt. Perez died the day of the fire. Firefighter-Paramedic Valerio died two days later.

Chief Hayes-White says the report was delivered to the firefighter's families earlier this week so they would have some time to digest it before it became public.

One piece of equipment that failed in the Diamond Heights fire may possibly lead to national changes. The firefighters' portable radio microphone and speaker cable failed in the heat and as of now, there is no national standard for that piece of gear. Chief Hayes-White is hoping that information might lead to some changes.

Whether or not that equipment failure made a difference in what happened is unclear.


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