RIP: Firefighter Vincent Perez, Raised in Bernal Heights

SFFD centennial edition
This is heartbreaking. SFFD firefighter Lt. Vincent Perez perished yesterday while battling a residential blaze on Berkeley Way in Diamond Heights. Two other firefighters were also injured in the incident. According to the SF Chronicle, Perez grew up in Bernal Heights:

A sudden flash of 1,000-degree heat at a house fire Thursday claimed the life of a veteran San Francisco firefighter who was trapped with his colleagues in the hillside home.

Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, died trying to extinguish a fire at the four-story home in Diamond Heights. He was caught in a “flashover” – an unexpected explosion caused when temperatures rise so high the contents of a room spontaneously ignite, Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. […]

Perez was a San Francisco firefighter for 21 years. He was born and raised in the Mission District and Bernal Heights, and was known for his courage and sense of humor, said Tom O’Connor, head of the firefighters union.

“He was always the first guy in a fire and the last guy out,” O’Connor said. “He lightened up the mood at the firehouse. … He was a firefighter’s firefighter.”

The flag flew at half-staff in front of Fire Station 26 in Diamond Heights, where a station crew member said two of the three firefighters were based.

UPDATE 6/4/11 o8:39:

In a follow-up article, the Chronicle tells us that Perez was raised on Wool Street, dined often at the Old Clam House, and complained about its recent remodel:

Perez, the second-oldest of five children, was raised on Wool Street in Bernal Heights. He knew the neighboring Mission District so well he could tell other firefighters which streets had overhead wires so they knew whether they could raise their ladders, colleagues said.

He spent his teenage years cruising Mission Street in a two-tone 1951 Lincoln. Even after attending City College of San Francisco, serving in the Marine Corps, being a deputy sheriff and then a firefighter, Perez maintained his childhood friendships and his taste for vintage cars.

“To this day, he hung out with the guys he grew up with,” Rivera said.

Perez even kept his youthful nickname – nearly everyone called him “Creature.

“When he was a kid … he had super-long arms and legs,” Rivera said. “When he used to run, he was kind of clumsy, and they used to call him ‘the Creature from the Black Lagoon.’ … He just shortened it to Creature.”

One of Perez’s favorite hangouts was the Old Clam House on Bayshore Boulevard, even though he groused when it was remodeled.

“He was one of those guys, a native San Franciscan,” Rivera said.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics and Bay City News

3 thoughts on “RIP: Firefighter Vincent Perez, Raised in Bernal Heights

  1. RIP Indeed. I was a poll worker at that fire station in high school and I remember how great all the firefighters were. It’s also my home station, so, yes, RIP.

  2. Pingback: One Year Later, Remembering the SFFD’s Lt. Vincent Perez | Bernalwood

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