Portola Valley attic fire may have been electrical


A small fire in the attic of a one-story home at 220 Mapache Drive in Portola Valley on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 26) caused about $50,000 in structural damage and an as yet unknown amount of damage to the contents of the house, including in the family room.

It was the family room ceiling that firefighters had to pull down to get at and extinguish what is thought to have been an electrical fire, Battalion Chief Kevin Butler of the Woodside Fire Protection District said.

On the scene to fight the fire were five companies of firefighters and support staff from the Woodside district, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the Redwood City Fire Department, Mr. Butler said. Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office were also on hand. There were no injuries, Mr. Butler said.

The 911 call came at about 1:10 p.m. from a resident who said she was at home and smelled smoke and had seen a wisp of it in the family room. The resident greeted the arriving firefighters at the front door. "She was fairly calm and she stated that she believed the house was on fire," Mr. Butler said.

Arriving firefighters had seen smoke and a flame or two from the outside, and smelled smoke in the house, Mr. Butler said. A team entered with a hose, went immediately to the family room, and used axes to pull down the ceiling and expose the attic. They found a small fire where the attic meets the roof.

Meanwhile, another team opened up part of the roof to tackle the fire from the outside. The fire was out after about an hour of work, Mr. Butler said. Firefighters remained on the scene in case it re-ignited.

The fire had at least the preliminary appearance of having been going for a while, indicating that it been may have been smoldering, Mr. Butler said. While the house does have smoke detectors, this fire did not trigger an alarm because the area had no detectors -- a configuration that is common, Mr. Butler said. Smoke detectors are usually near sleeping areas, he said.

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