Fourteen veterans were displaced from a group home in East Palo Alto Monday in a two-alarm fire that forced some to jump from second-story windows, Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.
Flames blocked the only staircase in the home, located at 1208 Bay Road, but no injuries were reported, Schapelhouman said.
"This was a very difficult fire," he said. "We're very fortunate nobody was killed or injured, especially with people jumping out of windows."
One of the veterans told investigators he accidentally started the fire in the kitchen, Schapelhouman said. He then quickly helped other people leave the board-and-care facility.
Residents jumped from windows or were assisted by neighbors and others leaving the building, and they were all evacuated before the firefighters arrived, Schapelhouman said. He said the fire was reported at the 5,000-square-foot home at about 4:40 p.m. and controlled about 35 minutes later.
The sprawling house only had one staircase despite its maze of 11 bedrooms, he said. The fire spread to both floors and had burned through the stairs and the second-story floor.
"We're lucky nobody fell through," Schapelhouman said. "You can't see that in the smoke typically."
Schapelhouman said the fire destroyed the home, but crews stayed at the scene all night and resumed investigations Tuesday morning. Fire crews still need to confirm the fire started in the kitchen, he said.
The 14 veterans have been relocated. Forty-one personnel responded, including eight engines, two trucks and six chief officers, Schapelhouman said.