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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

The 'routine' fire that went tragically wrong

SF LODDs are cause for the rest of us to take a serious gut check anytime we commit firefighters to the inside

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Dozens of grim-faced firefighters from across San Francisco flocked to the hospital at the weekend to pay tribute to FF Valerio, the second firefighter to die from injuries sustained in Thursday's house fire in the city. Read Chief Adam K. Thiel's take below.

It is much too early to properly analyze the tragic deaths of San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio.

Our solemn duty right now is to support their department, their families, and the survivors of this terrible event.

The fact that, ironically, their deaths occurred in the same neighborhood as Lt. Louis Mambretti's back in 1995 is a grim reminder that the majority of U.S. firefighter fatalities resulting from fireground operations occur in residential occupancies.

By all present accounts, and from listening to the radio traffic, this latest fire — like the one in 1995 — didn't seem like a "big deal" at first.

Unfortunately, it quickly became one when the fire reportedly flashed on the interior crews.

Make no mistake, these were highly experienced firefighters who knew their city and their first-due area.

Notwithstanding any other contributing factors, if they got in trouble on this fire, it's cause for the rest of us to take a serious gut check anytime we commit firefighters to the inside; even, perhaps especially, on a seemingly "routine" single-family dwelling fire.

May our brother firefighters rest in peace...

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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