A disabled security gate and a long private driveway hampered firefighters' efforts to extinguish a two-alarm blaze at a home in Atherton early this morning, a fire official said.
Power to the gate had been knocked out, presumably by the fire, so firefighters had to force their way into the property at 80 Mount Vernon Lane, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.
He said the driveway created additional challenges because the engine couldn't make it to the home and firefighters had to extend the hose for some distance.
By the time firefighters made it to the blaze, three-quarters of the attic was on fire and part of the roof had collapsed, he said.
The homeowners were awakened by popping sounds just before 3 a.m., Schapelhouman said.
They saw a glow in one of the closets and escaped, then called the fire district on their cellphones. They were not injured, but their two cats died in the fire.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze at 3:33 a.m. They had been able to remove most of the home's contents so only the structure sustained major damage.
"Based on the good salvage, it looks like they will have minimal personal dollar loss," Schapelhouman said.
He said investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire and estimate the damage.
The house was being remodeled and was a couple of weeks from being finished, Schapelhouman said. He said the construction might have contributed to the cause of the blaze.