East Palo Alto city hall open after arson fire


City business is back to normal in East Palo Alto this morning (Jan. 5) after an arson fire on Tuesday afternoon forced City Hall to be evacuated.

About 50 employees and members of the public were evacuated shortly after 4:45 p.m. when a fire was lit in a trashcan in the first-floor bathroom at City Hall, located at 2145 University Ave., Menlo Park Fire Protection District Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

Deputy City Clerk Minnie Warren said an East Palo Alto police officer came in to evacuate her office as smoke filled the lobby of the building, which houses City Council chambers and administrative offices.

"You could smell papers burning," Warren said.

The fire, which did not spread beyond the bathroom, was quickly controlled, Schapelhouman said.

Police are reviewing footage from surveillance cameras that appear to have captured images of two suspects entering the building and setting the fire, East Palo Alto police Capt. Carl Estelle said.

No one had been arrested as of mid-morning Wednesday, Estelle said.

A City Council meeting scheduled to take place Tuesday was canceled, Warren said. The meeting has been rescheduled for Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

"It could have been worse," Warren said. "When you think about it, it makes you realize how vulnerable we are."

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