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Funeral For Fallen Firefighters Draws Thousands To San Francisco

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SF firefighter funeral

San Francisco firefighters look on as the casket of San Francisco firefighter Anthony Valerio is moved during funeral services for Valerio and fellow firefighter Lt. Vincent Perez at St. Mary’s Cathedral on June 10, 2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Thousands gathered Friday afternoon in San Francisco where a funeral honored two firefighters who died fighting a blaze in the city’s Diamond Heights neighborhood last week.

Family, friends and firefighters from around the country were 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 Friday’s funeral.

After the funeral, the men were taken to the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma for burial.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Streets closed around the city to make way for the funeral and procession to the cemetery.

The 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.”

>> Photo Gallery: Firemen Killed In San Francisco Blaze

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.”

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.

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,” SFFD Lt. Mindy 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 appeared to have been sparked by something electrical, but its exact cause remained under investigation.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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