Almanac

News - July 14, 2010

Fire burns through roof on Menlo Park home

by Dave Boyce

A fire that burned through the roof of a two-story home on Seminary Drive in Menlo Park at around 9:50 p.m. Saturday, July 10, caused $50,000 to $75,000 in damages to the roof, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District told The Almanac.

Firefighters arrived on the scene three minutes after the 911 call came in and had the one-alarm fire under control about 13 minutes later, the chief said.

Some 14 firefighters fought the fire. There were no injuries, the chief said, adding that fire investigators put the damage to contents at about $20,000.

The fire's cause is likely to be a recessed light fixture in the attic that either malfunctioned, was installed improperly, or was too close to insulation material, the chief said.

Recessed lights "generate a lot of heat," Chief Schapelhouman said. "They're up in the attic, they're always suspect. If they're not installed correctly, it can be a problem."

The homeowners were away but someone taking care of the house heard a smoke alarm, or alarms, go off, the chief said. Both the attic and the second floor had alarms, he said.

The timing of the fire was fortunate in that it occurred before bedtime when someone was awake to hear the alarm and didn't get a chance to build, the chief said.

Had there been a sprinkler system in the second floor ceiling, it would not have extinguished this fire. Asked about that, Chief Schapelhouman said that the fire district recommends that the attic also be equipped, particularly because homeowners today are trying to save livable space by putting heating and air conditioning equipment up there.

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