The fire started in a compost pile lying next to the house and near an attic vent, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said on May 9.
A recent tree trimming cleared the way for more sunlight to hit the pile, accelerating decomposition and creating enough heat to start a blaze, according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. The fire entered the house through the vent and possibly a side wall air-conditioning unit.
The fire ruined portions of the home at 52 Willow Road, which had been remodeled six months earlier. No one was hurt, but a family of four, along with two visiting grandparents, are living elsewhere for an indefinite time until repairs are wrapped up. Damages were estimated at $310,000.
Neighbors living next door were temporarily forced out of their home thanks to smoke damage, the district said. While firefighters focused on protecting the neighbor's home, which has a "highly flammable" wood-shingled roof, open windows let smoke stream inside, the district reported.
The morning of the fire, neighbors reported hearing a "boom" shortly before 11 a.m. and seeing flames leap from a front corner of the home. Firefighters said they arrived on the scene about two minutes after the 911 call.