"This was a tragic conclusion to a fairly routine single-family home fire."
|San Francisco Fire Department|
State safety officials agreed with that assessment in a memo to the department Jan. 6, and the department has appealed the violations, which included citations for not having enough backup staff outside when Perez and Valerio went into the burning home.
"What Vince and Tony did was exactly what all of us would have done that day," Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said, standing with several of her commanders as she revealed the 156-page report's findings. "They were the first on the scene, they entered the fire with a hose line, and the key factor was a variable we really had no control over - the failure of a window.
The fire at 133 Berkeley Way was called in to 911 by a resident at 10:44 a.m., according to the report. An electrical socket or handheld vacuum cleaner had shorted out, igniting curtains, and Perez and Valerio arrived at the scene three minutes later.
They went inside with a fire hose, and at 10:53 a battalion chief followed inside to check their progress. The ground entrance was the third level of the four-level hillside home, and Perez and Valerio told the battalion chief they believed the fire was one floor below them, the report said.
Their last radio contact with the outside, however, was at 10:52. At some point after that - no one is sure when - their portable radios failed. The devices were later found melted.
The brief encounter with the battalion chief was the last time Perez and Valerio were seen alive.
'Like being in chimney'
It turned out they were right, and the fire was one floor down. As they began making their way down the stairs toward the blaze, the window blew out at 10:58, the report said.
The dying men were found six minutes later by fellow firefighters.
Assistant Deputy Chief Jose Velo said the two had been overcome almost instantly when the window blew out. The rush of air into the room from outside fed the flames and shoved a wall of heat up the stairs at them, he said.
"For about two or three minutes, the temperature went from 200 degrees to 550 to 700 degrees, which caught Perez and Valerio off guard," Velo said. "It was like being in a chimney."
Perez was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital around noon. Valerio died there two days later.
Hayes-White said that based on the report's findings, she has asked the National Fire Protection Association to establish standards for portable radios to ensure they don't melt in similar fires. No such standards exist, she said.
The report also recommends reassessing procedures for determining risk at fires, particularly on steep hills and when ventilation issues are involved. Both of those were factors in the Diamond Heights fire.
"What Vince and Tony did was exactly what all of us would have done that day."
Source: FFN - Link
California Fire News 2011