News - March 10, 2010

House fire: Passerby alerts resident, helps fight the fire; resident escapes

by Andrea Gemmet and Dave Boyce

A one-alarm fire caused about $350,000 in structural damage and $50,000 in damage to contents of a single-story home in Menlo Park's Sharon Heights neighborhood Saturday afternoon, March 6, Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said.

One firefighter was injured when he "rolled his ankle," Chief Schapelhouman said.

The fire was reported at 4:35 p.m. in the 900 block of Continental Drive. Firefighters arrived within minutes, and the fire was under control by 4:45 p.m., he said.

Scott Johnson, a Trinity Drive resident who saw the smoke, told The Almanac that he stopped his car and knocked on the door of the Continental Drive home. The occupant had no idea her roof was on fire, he said.

She and her dog got out in plenty of time.

Mr. Johnson said he climbed up on the roof with a ladder and a garden hose. Smoke and flames were coming from an attic vent, the chief said.

The fireplace was in use at the time, Mr. Johnson said.

A big cloud of smoke was visible from Santa Cruz Avenue.

Fighting the fire were some 16 firefighters from four engines and one truck plus two battalion chiefs to manage the effort, the chief said. The Menlo Park firefighters were assisted by firefighters from the Woodside Fire Protection District.

Firefighters drilled holes in the roof, but its triple layer construction of wood shingle, composition and wood shake made the operation "difficult," Chief Schapelhouman said, adding that the fire consumed most of the attic.

Firefighters also worked from inside the house, pulling down the ceiling after removing the furniture and valuables, the chief said.

The fire may have started in the attic of the 2,200-square-foot, ranch-style house, Chief Schapelhouman said. The cause is under investigation.


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