SF Honors Fallen Firefighters

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011  |  Updated 7:46 AM PDT
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The bodies of two San Francisco firefighters who died in the line of duty were taken into a church for a memorial.

The bodies of two San Francisco firefighters who died in the line of duty were taken into a church for a memorial.

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Thousands of people gathered late Friday morning at a church in San Francisco where a funeral was being held for two firefighters who died after fighting a blaze in the city's Diamond Heights neighborhood last week.

Family, friends and firefighters from around the country are attending the services for Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53.

The pair died of injuries they suffered while battling a fire at a home at 133 Berkeley Way on June 2. Perez died later that day and Valerio succumbed to his injuries on Saturday morning.

A vigil was held for the two men Thursday night at St. Mary's Cathedral, the site of the funeral being held at 12:30 p.m.
   
After the funeral, the men were scheduled to be buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.

Streets were closed around the City to make way for the funeral and procession to the cemetery.
      
Fire trucks were already beginning to line up late Friday morning on Geary Boulevard, one of the streets being closed during the services.

The funeral brought firefighters from around the country who came to mourn their colleagues.
      
Matt Vaitiskis, a firefighter from Boston, said, "This is what we do. They would do it for me, the brotherhood transcends nations."

Tim O'Brien, a firefighter from Chicago, said last year two firefighters died in a building collapse in their city, and firefighters from San Francisco came out for that funeral.

"You're looking at all my brothers," O'Brien said. "We live together, eat meals, cook together, scrub floors, and at the end of the day we might walk into a very bad situation together."

BART officials Friday morning were designating the last car of each train for the hundreds of fire personnel coming into San Francisco.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Mayor Ed Lee, and Bill Storti, the captain of Fire Station 26 where the two men worked, were among the speakers at the funeral, as will Perez's brother and one of Valerio's longtime ambulance partners.
      
Perez and Valerio were badly burned when objects in a room of the house apparently heated to the point of ignition, a dangerous phenomenon known as a "flashover," Talmadge said.
      
A female firefighter suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns. She was treated at the hospital and released later that day.
      
Talmadge said the initial fire that day appears to have been sparked by something electrical, but its exact cause remains under investigation.

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