San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White announced Saturday that Firefighter Tony Valerio died at San Francisco General Hospital at approximately 7:30am. The announcement came at a 10:30 am at a press conference at the hospital attended by Chief Hayes-White, Mayor Ed Lee, Dr. Andre Campbell, and Mr. Valerio’s siblings Jackie Samsel and Mark Valerio.
Valerio, 53, was the second firefighter to die from injuries sustained in a tragic blaze at 133 Berkeley Way on June 2. Twenty-one-year fire department veteran Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, was killed on Thursday fighting the fire which was apparently sparked by an electrical outlet and began around 10:45 AM Thursday. It set curtains on first in a ground-level living room in the four-story house, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A woman and three children who were in the home escaped unharmed, but about 20 minutes after the first firefighters had arrived a blast of superheated gases ignited in a room where a two-man crew from Engine 26 Company in Diamond Heights fire station were fighting the fire.
“Firefighter/Paramedic Valerio was a dedicated member of the San Francisco Fire Department and of the community,” said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “This has been an extremely difficult time for the members of the San Francisco Department. Firefighter/Paramedic Valerio and Lieutenant Perez’s deaths have left all of our members with heavy hearts, they will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with both the Valerio and Perez families as they grieve their losses.”
The incident is under investigation, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told the Chronicle.
Questions about the helicopters and police presence began to hit Glen Park electronic mailing lists within an hour of the blaze’s start. By 11:41 AM the first note about the tragedy and the possible death of a fire fighter went out to the Glen Park Parents and Bulletin board lists.
Soon thereafter neighbors began dropping off flowers, cards and food and just coming by to hug the crew at the station at 80 Digby Street.
Glen Park Association president Michael Rice and board member Ashley Hathaway visited Friday afternoon to pay their respects and drop off a letter of condolence from the Association.
“We spoke with Bill, the station captain, for a few minutes,” Rice says. “The lobby of the station was filled with many vases of flowers that had been dropped off already.”
Madoka Hokamura and her daughters, Mariko, 9 and Akiko, 7, brought a card the girls had made and a homemade cookies.
“We just briefly talked with the fire fighter who came to the door. Another family who had delivered their child’s drawing was just leaving as we got there,” Hokamura says. “As we were walking out, we saw another man walking in with flowers. I also saw a fire fighter with Santa Clara Fire Dept T shirt setting up a BBQ up front.”
San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 has established trust accounts at the San Francisco Fire Credit Union for the families of Lt. Vincent Perez and firefighter/paramedic Anthony Valerio. Donations can be made to SFFCU, 3201 California St., San Francisco, CA 94118.