News

Menlo Park fire district, city to meet over development issues

 

By Erin Glanville, Special to the Almanac

The governing board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District on Tuesday night stepped back from a proposal that the district oppose new development in the city's M-2 industrial zone until the city can guarantee funds for additional fire services.

Fire board member Peter Carpenter had proposed that the board adopt a resolution to this effect on Tuesday.

But hours before the meeting, the district received a letter from City Manager Alex McInltyre expressing support for the concept of a fire impact fee on new development and proposing "further conversation" between district and city officials.

The fire board decided to table the resolution and agreed to a meeting between district and city officials on Tuesday, Jan. 27.

Those expected to participate in the meeting are fire board members Virginia Chang Kiraly and Rex Ianson, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman, Mayor Catherine Carlton, Councilman Peter Ohtaki, and Mr. McIntyre

In proposing the resolution, Mr. Carpenter cited what he considers a pattern of city officials ignoring the fire district's concerns about how new development affects the district's ability to provide emergency services.

The proposed "upzoning" in the M-2 district would bring in too much development for the area's fire station to handle and would take limited resources away from the Belle Haven neighborhood, Mr. Carpenter said. "To grant development rights without understanding the impact is irresponsible," he said.

The M2 district roughly spans parcels wedged between the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, Marsh Road and U.S. 101. The area has seen a jump in development activity during the past four years with the arrival of Facebook headquarters and the approval of the Bohannon Menlo Gateway project.

Comments

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Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Does the Menlo Park Fire District territory also cover the Town of Atherton?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Does the Menlo Park Fire District territory also cover the Town of Atherton?"

Yes. The Fire District, which was established BEFORE the City of Menlo Park, the Town of Atherton and the City of East Palo Alto, serves all three of these communities plus portions of the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In next Tuesday MP Council's agenda item on the new Fire Code you can see exactly how the City of Menlo Park wants to be treated differently than every other local jurisdiction.

The State Fire Code gives the Fire District final authority over any traffic calming devices on the Fire District's primary response routes. Atherton, East Palo Alto and San Mateo County adopted the Fire Code with that language unchanged. Menlo Park refused to accept this State Fire Code language:
"Traffic Calming Devices
The proposed ordinance establishes standards for the design, construction and installation of traffic calming devices within the City Right of Way. Traffic calming devices may consist of physical designs as well as other measures including; narrowed roads, speed humps, speed feedback signs, striping, signage, etc., put in place on roads for the intention of slowing down or reducing motor-vehicle traffic as well as to improve safety for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists.
The proposed ordinance discusses the use of traffic calming devices within the City Right of Way and on Fire District primary response routes. The original text for this section as presented by the un-adopted model code would have given final review and approval of any improvements or modifications to City Right of Way to the Fire District, therefore preventing the City from modifying or improving our roadways without approval from the Fire District. The current text as modified by City staff and Fire District staff states:
Traffic calming devices shall be designed and constructed so that they shall not prevent or impede emergency vehicle travel, ingress, and/or egress. Special consideration shall be given to the use of traffic calming devices and their impacts to emergency response vehicles on Fire District primary response routes.
Therefore, the text as presented notes that the City will take due care and consideration for emergency vehicle access when designing and constructing traffic calming devices, while maintaining the final review and approval of any improvements within the City Right of Way."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is also interesting to note that Menlo Park demanded less stringent requirements for fire sprinklers than the requirements in the State Code and those already accepted by Atherton and East Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

Peter:

That's probably because fire sprinklers add a great deal of cost to even a small project. I am in the process of remodeling a small home in Menlo Park. It is small enough and the work limited enough that we didn't think sprinklers would be required. Wrong. The Fire District wants them. Added cost for the sprinkler system in a 1900 sf house $9450. That's $4.37 per square foot. Not bad you say and I would agree BUT this sprinkler system drives other changes.

The water line had to be replaced from the meter to the house with a larger line. This new water line must have a backflow device since it is attached to a sprinkler system. Added cost $4988. Trenching and backfill for the new water line, $2,498. Other miscellaneous costs like drywall demo that wasn't going to be done before, repair of drywall, added electrical for the fire bell, etc adds another $3500.

This doesn't include the cost of replacing the existing water meter with a new one because the existing is too small. We are waiting for the cost on that, but in my experience that will run in the neighborhood of $6000.

So we're looking at added costs of $26000 for a fire sprinkler system in a 1900 square foot house for a remodel project that was $325,000.

The requirements should be modified. That is a ridiculous burden to place on someone doing a small remodel.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sorry Menlo Voter, I don't agree. Residential sprinklers save lives and are now required nationwide.

Here is what does happen when a home does not have sprinklers:

Web Link

"Early Monday morning, an inferno consumed the mansion, bringing down its seven-ton steel beams and reducing to ash a structure the size of seven average single-family houses.

All six family members are feared dead."

"County fire officials said there were no sprinklers in the Pyle mansion, which was built in 2005 — four years before Anne Arundel began to require them in new residential homes.

Fire sprinklers will become mandatory in all new residential buildings in Maryland starting in June. Bouch said that if sprinklers had been installed in the Pyle mansion, “there probably wouldn’t be a story today.”

******
How much would you have saved on this remodel if you did not have to comply with electrical code standards? You would not build/remodel a home without complying with electrical standards so why ignore National Fire Code standards?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Because they are excessive. Where's the most common place fires develop and become out of control in a home? The kitchen. Require them there in a small home. They still have smoke detectors. In a home only 1900 sf people aren't going to have problems exiting the structure like they would a mansion. I agree, large structures like that should be fully sprinkler. Requiring someone doing a small remodel to a small home to install a full sprinkler system is over kill and unnecessary.

Every jurisdiction adopts the various building codes and adapts them, adds to them or takes away from them as they deem necessary. This is nothing unusual.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I serve as a Director of the entire Fire District and I am not supportive of requiring a lower standard in Menlo Park than that which applies in East Palo Alto and Atherton. Certainly if East Palo Alto finds the sprinkler requirements, which are now the national standard, to be cost effective then it is hard to see where the much more affluent Menlo Park cannot afford to comply with the same standards.

And given the traffic congestion in parts of Menlo Park residential sprinklers are even more important. But here again Menlo Park has refused to accept the State Fire Code requirement that the Fire District have veto rights to traffic calming measures on the Fire District's primary routes.

Nationwide the biggest reductions in fire deaths have not come from better response times or better fire equipment but rather from better building and fire codes. Menlo Park's approach is to have less structural protection and slower response times - this will increase the risk to both life and property.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would also note that had the residential sprinkler requirement been put in place by Menlo Park years ago when those standards were recommended by the Fire District there would be more homes with sprinklers and fewer homes requiring retrofit.

I know that retrofitting an existing home with fire sprinklers is expensive because we did that to our home many years ago. I felt that I could not in good faith advocate sprinklers for others when I did not have them myself. The installation in our 3770 square foot cost about $20k including new water meter etc. There were some cost savings as we did it in conjunction with a new lateral sewer line and other interior work. The installed system is almost invisible and has never inadvertently come on or had a leak. Only the sprinkler head(s) exposed to a high temperature activate(s) and any activation immediately sounds an alarm and sends an alarm to Atherton Police Dispatch. And I sleep very well at night even when our five grandchildren are with us.

Mr. Pyle certainly saved money by not installing a residential fire sprinkler system but he lost the bet with his life and that of his wife and four grandchildren.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Peter:

the house to which I am referring was built in the late 40's or early 50's. I would hazard a guess that most of the homes in Menlo Park were constructed before fire sprinklers became mandated. They will inevitably need to be retrofit into these homes and it's very expensive and in smaller homes unnecessary in my opinion.

I agree with you regarding larger structures and new construction. I also agree with you regarding Menlo Park messing with traffic flows on roads used by first responders. It's stupid and irresponsible.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I wonder how people who live, work and shop in Menlo Park would feel if they knew that Menlo Park was determined a adopt a sub-standard Fire Code?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

I suspect if they know "standard" fire code could potentially cost them an unnecessary $26000, they will be happy about it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" an unnecessary $26000, they will be happy about it."

I seriously doubt that the surviving parents of the four Pyle grandchildren are happy that their grandfather saved a few thousand dollars on his multimillion dollar home by not installing fire sprinklers.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

apples and oranges Peter. The Pyles lived in a mansion with large steel beams. That does not describe most homes in Menlo Park.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well then here are some apples for you:
"SPRINKLER SUCCESSES IN
ONE- AND TWO-FAMILY HOMES AND APARTMENTS
One Stop Data Shop Fire Analysis and Research March 2014


INTRODUCTION
This collection of previously published incidents was compiled from NFPA’s studies of large-loss fires and the “Firewatch” column from NFPA Journal. Sprinklers are highly effective, reliable weapons in the fight to save lives and property from fire. Sprinklers operated in 93% of the reported structure fires in which sprinklers were present in the fire area and the fire was large enough to activate them. In most occupancy groups, the death rate per fire in sprinklered properties is least 57% lower compared to properties without automatic extinguishing systems, while the average loss per fire in sprinklered properties is 34-68% lower.1
The incidents that follow are divided by occupancy group. These examples show how sprinklers operate in real fires. They also show that in some situations, particularly explosions, sprinklers prevented a fire from spreading or controlled it, but substantial losses still occurred.
It is important to remember that these descriptions show provide information about what can happen, not what is typical.
For more on NFPA’s home Fire sprinkler Initiative, go to http:/www.firesprinklerinitiative.org
1 John R. Hall, Jr. U.S. Experience with Sprinklers and Other Automatic Fire Extinguishing Equipment, Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2013.
Sprinkler Successes, 3/14 1 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA in One- and Two-Family Homes and Apartments
ONE-AND TWO-FAMILY HOMES
Sprinkler extinguishes dwelling garage fire, Arizona
A single sprinkler extinguished a fire that investigators believe started when a child's plastic table ignited in the first-floor garage of a single-family home.
The one-story, wood-frame house had smoke alarms and an NFPA 13D wet-pipe sprinkler system that provided coverage in all the living areas and the garage.
The fire department received that alarm at 11:52 a.m., and firefighters responded to find smoke coming from the garage. The fire had already been extinguished by one sprinkler head. They checked the attic for fire extension and found none.
The child's 19-year-old sister told investigators that she heard the sprinkler flow alarm go off, looked in the garage, and saw that it was full of black smoke. She then saw that the toy table had melted and moved it outside into the yard.
The house, valued at $150,000, and its contents, valued at $50,000, sustained losses estimated at $100.
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2013," Firewatch", NFPA Journal, September/October 26.
Sprinkler douses fire started by child playing with lighter, Florida
Firefighters responding to a public assist call for a water leak at a single-family home were notified enroute that the alarm company was reporting an operating water flow alarm at the house.
The attached, two-story, wood-frame townhouse had concrete block walls, a stucco exterior, and a wood-truss roof covered by plywood and composite shingles. The property was protected by a sprinkler system.
After controlling the sprinkler water flow, the officer noted two areas of burning and called investigators, who determined that a child had ignited paper at the living room door leading to the garage with a lighter. The boy said that he tried to use the contents of a plastic sports drink bottle, thinking it was water, to extinguish the flames, but the fire came back at him, burning his hand. Apparently, the boy's mother had been painting and put acetone in the plastic container.
The flash fire, which spread to an interior door and the adjacent wall, created enough heat to activate the sprinkler and sound an external water flow alarm, allowing the family to evacuate safely.
Water did $500 in structural damage to the house, which was valued at $82,000. Its contents, valued at $10,000, sustained an estimated loss of $1,000.
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2013," Firewatch", NFPA Journal, July/August, 23-24.
Sprinkler Successes, 3/14 2 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA in One- and Two-Family Homes and Apartments

Hot ashes in trash can ignite, California
A single sprinkler activated to control a fire that began when ashes in a plastic trash can ignited other combustibles in the can, which was stored in a residential garage. The neighbors heard the alarm and called 911.
The single story, wood-frame detached garage, which was 20 feet (6 meters) long and 30 feet (9 meters) wide, had a concrete floor and a basement. The home fire sprinkler system was a wet-pipe NFPA 13D system that provided coverage for about 600 square feet (55 square meters).
The 911 call came in at 12:13 p.m., and firefighters arrived eight minutes later to find the alarm still operating, smoke showing, and water coming from under the garage door. Once inside, they discovered that the sprinkler had nearly extinguished the fire.
The owner told investigators that friends who were staying over had inadvertently disposed of the ashes in the trash. The area around the trash can and on side of a vehicle parked in the garage suffered some heat damage. Damage to the structure and its contents was estimated at $2,000 and $3,000, respectively. The fire department report noted that, "no doubt the sprinkler played a key role in limiting what would have been a much more extensive fire."
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2012, “Firewatch,” NFPA Journal, September/October 24.
Sprinkler extinguishes fire in home under construction, Illinois
A single sprinkler in a two-unit townhouse under construction extinguished a fire that started when oil-soaked rags stuffed into a cardboard box in a plastic garbage can spontaneously ignited.
The two-story, wood-frame townhouse had local smoke alarms on each level, but they were not a factor during the incident. The sprinkler system had already been installed, and the sprinkler operated despite the fact that it still had a protective cover over it.
A worker who saw the fire called 911 at 7:05 a.m., and firefighters arrived within minutes to find the sprinkler operating and a heavy haze of white smoke inside the building.
Property damage to the house, valued at $475,000, was estimated at $5,000. No one was injured.
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2011, “Firewatch,” NFPA Journal, January/February, 25.
Sprinkler controls fire in home, Arizona
A sprinkler held a fire in a bedroom of a single-family home in check until firefighters arrived, preventing a significant fire loss. Investigators believe that the fire began when an unattended candle ignited furniture in the bedroom. No one was home at the time of the fire.
Sprinkler Successes, 3/14 3 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA in One- and Two-Family Homes and Apartments
The one-story, wood-frame house, which covered an area of 2,000 square feet (186 square meters), was built on a concrete slab and had a tile roof. It was protected by smoke alarms, which were operating when firefighters responded to a neighbor's 911 call at 12:48 p.m.
The house, valued at $500,000, and its contents, valued at $50,000, sustained damages estimated at $20,000 and $5,000, respectively. There were no injuries.
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2010, "Firewatch", NFPA Journal, January/February, 23.
Residential sprinkler extinguishes cooking fire, California
A single sprinkler extinguished a fire in the kitchen of a single-family home that began when food left cooking unattended ignited. The single-story, wood-frame house, which covered 2,100 square feet (195 square meters), had both smoke alarms and a wet-pipe sprinkler system.
A water flow alarm alerted the home’s occupant, who was outside, that the sprinkler had activated. By the time he reentered the house the sprinkler had already extinguished the fire, so he turned off the electric stove and shut the water off at the street before calling the fire department business number at 6:39 p.m.
Firefighters arrived within five minutes to find water throughout the kitchen and a melted microwave oven above the burned stove. Before leaving, they removed the water with water vacuums, replaced the sprinkler, and put the sprinkler system back in service after advising the owner to have the system inspected.
The occupant said he began heating a pan of oil on the stove, then went outside and forgot about the pan.
The house, valued at $635,000, sustained $63,000 in damages. There were no injuries. Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2006, “Firewatch”, NFPA Journal, September/October, 34.
Residential sprinkler saves home, Washington
A residential sprinkler system in a single-family home under renovation proved its value when it extinguished a fire started by a cigarette in a waste barrel in the garage. Only the debris and the plastic barrel in which the fire started were damaged by fire.
Investigators determined that the fire ignited after the construction workers had left for the day. Although the property wasn’t yet occupied, a residential sprinkler system had already been installed in the 4,200-square-foot (390-square-meter) house following the requirements of NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One-and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Upon the fire department’s recommendation, the homeowner had also provided sprinkler protection in the garage where the fire occurred.
Sprinkler Successes, 3/14 4 NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research, Quincy, MA in One- and Two-Family Homes and Apartments

Because a local alarm had yet to be connected, the single activated sprinkler went unnoticed until the next morning. Fire damage was limited to $30, or the cost of the plastic barrel. After 15 hours of operation, however, the sprinkler had caused $2,400 worth of water damage to the drywall and three low-voltage lighting system transformers.
The combined fire and water damage was 1 percent or less of the total value of the property, estimated in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The fire marshal later noted that, “Automatic fire sprinklers aid in the detection and control of residential fires, providing improved protection against injury, life loss, and property damage.”
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2001, “Firewatch”, NFPA Journal, January/February, 20-21.
Residential sprinkler contains dwelling fire, California
A residential sprinkler system prevented a fire from spreading into the living area of a single-family home.
The two-story wood-framed structure was 70 feet (21 meters) long and 40 feet (12 meters) wide. A residential sprinkler system was installed throughout. It was unclear whether smoke alarms were present.
A paper bag of fireplace ashes had been placed on the wooden deck by the front door the night before. Shortly after midnight, the bag ignited, and the fire spread to the deck, siding, and front door. The door’s seal failed, which allowed the fire to penetrate the building setting off the heat activated sprinkler.
The occupant used a garden hose on the deck to control the exterior fire and the residential sprinkler controlled the interior fire until firefighters arrived after receiving a 911 call at 12:50 a.m. The property, valued at $330,000, suffered a structure loss of $15,000 and a contents loss of $2,000.
Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2000, “Firewatch”, NFPA Journal, July/August, 18.
Residential sprinklers extinguish Christmas tree fire, Arizona
A residential sprinkler system extinguished a fire in a Christmas tree in a single-story, one-family dwelling of unprotected, wood-frame construction. Following the fire, fire department officials said, "The...sprinkler system... was instrumental in controlling and extinguishing this fire. Because the sprinkler system was present in the house, the occupants escaped with no injury or loss of life."
The residential sprinklers, which were installed in all rooms of the home, were not required by local ordinance. They had been installed by the owner. A single-station, battery-operated smoke detector was located in the hallway, but it is not known whether it operated."


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Peter:

most all of those seem to be things that could have been dealt with by smoke alarms. Only unoccupied dwellings would benefit with fire sprinklers. If life safety is the issue and not property loss then smoke detectors are adequate. I agree that life safety has a high value. Property loss does not. It's covered by fire insurance.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm

The residential fire sprinkler rule is the worst kind of nanny state regulation. Let's keep the sprinklers at the office and let my insurance company decide how much it should cost me to not have those sprinklers at home.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"let my insurance company decide how much it should cost me to not have those sprinklers at home."

Do your insurance cover funerals?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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