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San Francisco Firefighter Remains Critical; Fallen Colleague Mourned

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF)— A 14-year firefighter and longtime paramedic clung to life Friday, unconscious and on a ventilator in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, a day after a house fire claimed the life of his colleague.

>>Photo Gallery: Fallen San Francisco Firefighter

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White offered hope on the condition of the 53-year-old Anthony Valerio, saying his condition hasn't worsened and that he's a triathlete, which should help him fight his respiratory injuries.

"We're all hoping for a miracle. He's in good shape and I hope that's been helpful in his ability to fight this. His family has been at his bedside since [Thursday] afternoon," she said.

A third firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.

KCBS' Holly Quan Reports:

Hayes-White received phone calls from fire chiefs from around the country in support of 48-year-old Lt. Vincent Perez, killed as he was responding to a fire on the 100 block of Berkeley Way in the Diamond Heights neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the investigation continued Friday into how the fire happened, according to Deputy Chief Pat Gardner.

"We left everything in place. We had a team of investigators come in. They checked every hose; we've interviewed every firefighter that was on the scene," said Gardner.

Fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said Thursday that some firefighters reported seeing a "flashover," an explosion from intense heat, inside the home. Around that time, an emergency alarm was activated that was attached to one of the firefighters inside the home.

Dispatch received the alert and notified the incident commander, who tried but was unable to reach the firefighter by radio, Talmadge said.

KCBS' Margie Shafer Reports on the 911 tapes:

Additional crew members were sent in and found two firefighters, Perez and Valerio, down on the ground and "pretty badly burned," she said.

Four residents were inside the home when the blaze started but they were all able to escape without injury.

This is the first time since 2003 that San Francisco has had a firefighter die in the line of duty.

Flags around the Bay Area and state were being flown at half-staff Friday in honor of Perez's death and Valerio's serious injuries.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who came to the hospital Thursday to pay his respects to the victims' families, ordered all flags at city-owned sites be flown at half-staff in honor of the firefighters.

In solidarity with their colleagues inSan Francisco, firefighters in San Jose today also lowered their flags to half-staff at each of the city's 33 stations, fire Capt. Scott Kouns said.

Gov. Jerry Brown also ordered that the flags at the state Capitol inSacramentobe flown at half-staff, and released a statement today about the fire.

Brown said his wife and he "were saddened to learn of the death of Lt. Vincent Perez, a veteran firefighter who has bravely served his community for more than 20 years."

He said, "Our thoughts are with those mourning this tragedy and we will continue to keep his colleague, Firefighter Anthony Valerio, in our prayers."

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

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