An alert resident of the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park saw smoke coming from a neighbor's two-story home on Concord Drive on Monday evening (May 2), called firefighters and then saved the family's pets.
After making the 911 call and hearing a smoke alarm coming from the unoccupied house, the neighbor entered the house, saw a clothes-dryer on fire on the second floor and evacuated two pets, a dog and a bird, Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a statement.
The call came at 4:56 p.m. and firefighters from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District were on the scene five minutes later, the chief said. They had the fire under control in about three minutes and there were no injuries reported.
The fire is believed to have started at or near the clothes dryer, but the cause is still under investigation.
The house is uninhabitable, with heat and smoke damage to the second floor and water damage to the first floor, mainly from a melted water line to a washing machine, firefighters said. Investigators estimate the structural damages to the 2,200-square-foot house at $100,000, with at least $100,000 more in property damages, the chief said.
Five fire engines, one ladder truck and two battalion chiefs were dispatched to manage the operation -- totaling 22 people the chief said.
When firefighters entered the house, they saw fire at the top of the stairs that had begun to make its way down both sides of a hallway from the direction of the dryer, Chief Schapelhouman said. "Hot dark smoke had banked all the way down to the floor," according to Battalion Chief Rob Johnson.
Firefighters mopped up and left around 6:30 p.m., the chief said.
"The attentiveness and quick-thinking of the neighbor saved not only the family pets but essential(ly), the structure itself," Battalion Chief Ben Marra said. "The entire second floor would have been on fire in just a few more minutes if it wasn't for the neighbor's quick actions."
Calling the current design of Willow Road "a threat to public safety," Chief Schapelhouman said he has written recently to the Menlo Park City Council about the traffic delays firefighters encounter, particularly at peak commute times. "Our units constantly struggle to navigate down the Willow Road corridor during peak traffic hours now," he said.
On this occasion, firefighters had to use the public address systems on their emergency vehicles to "instruct drivers how to get out of their way," the chief said. Firefighters were fortunate to have Blackburn Avenue as an alternate route to the fire, he said.