Smoke from the incident, while not causing any damage, did lead management to require residents to shelter in their rooms, Captain Phil Van Orden of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said in an interview in the building's lobby.
There were no injuries, he added, though the acrid odor indicative of burned electrical components did permeate the interior air.
Domingo Islas, the maintenance supervisor, extinguished the fire in the elevator shaft, Mr. Van Orden said. Mr. Islas visited the lobby and confirmed that he put out the fire with a standard fire extinguisher in what amounted to a few minutes.
The motor got hot and stayed hot, enough to boil water dropped on it 30 to 45 minutes after it was extinguished, one firefighter reported. There were flames, perhaps the result of burning hydraulic oil, Mr. Van Orden said.
A thermal imaging device indicated a temperature on the motor's surface of over 300 degrees Fahrenheit at one point, another firefighter said.
Firefighters deployed fans on the second and third floors to clear them of smoke.
The one-alarm fire drew about 18 firefighters with two battalions chiefs, including one chief from the Redwood City Fire Department.
"Any time you get (a fire) in a building like this, we take it very seriously," Mr. Van Orden said.