Nursing home employee extinguishes fire

Elevator motor got hot enough to boil water

An overheated elevator motor that caught fire led the management at Atherton Healthcare nursing home at 1275 Crane St. in Menlo Park to require residents to shelter in their rooms around 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.

While an acrid smell indicative of burning electrical components did permeate the interior atmosphere, there were no injuries and no damage, Captain Phil Van Orden of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said in an interview in the building's lobby.

A nursing home employee extinguished the fire in the elevator shaft, Mr. Van Orden said. Later, Domingo Islas, the maintenance supervisor, visited the lobby and confirmed that he put the fire out 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 Redwood City Fire Department.

"Any time you get (a fire) in a building like this, we take it very seriously," Mr. Van Orden said.

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