SFFD Cited For Errors In Blaze That Killed 2 Firefighters

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(L-R) Lt. Vincent Perez, Anthony Valerio (SFFD)

(L-R) Lt. Vincent Perez, Anthony Valerio (SFFD)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued several severe citations and fines of up to $21,000 to the San Francisco Fire Department last week for violations related to a fire response in June that killed two veteran members of the force.

Firefighter/paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53, and Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, died from injuries suffered while battling a fire at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way in the city’s Diamond Heights neighborhood on June 2.

The two men were badly burned when objects in the room they were in heated to the point of ignition, a dangerous phenomenon known as “flashover,” fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said days after the fire.

According to Cal/OSHA, the fire department failed to follow safety procedures for workers entering a life-threatening environment during and before the response.

The violations involved a failure to maintain sufficient contact and communication among employees and a failure to assign employees to certain roles only when those assignments do not jeopardize the safety of firefighters working at the scene, according to Cal/OSHA documents.

The fire department was also cited with a general violation after the state agency determined that the department failed to ensure that its employees complied with its injury and illness prevention program.

Cal/OSHA did not say whether the violations directly contributed to the firefighters’ deaths but noted no serious accident-related violations could be cited because of the inability to determine the cause and timing of events that took place at the fire scene.

According to Cal/OSHA, the citations were issued on Nov. 25 and must be remedied by Dec. 28. Each severe violation carries a proposed penalty of $6,750, while the general violation carries a penalty of $750, for a total of $21,000 in proposed penalties.

The citations also indicate that there was a period of time that passed when personnel outside the home did not maintain communication with the two Engine 26 crew members inside, Perez and Valerio.

They also noted that a battalion chief who entered the house alone did not maintain contact with other firefighters inside the home, and that there were not enough personnel outside the home to ensure that operations could proceed without jeopardizing the safety of those inside.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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