Two-alarm fire destroys home in Atherton | October 3, 2007 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 3, 2007

Two-alarm fire destroys home in Atherton

Firefighters controlled a two-alarm blaze at a ranch-style home in Atherton Sept. 25, but not before flames destroyed it.

A passerby saw flames shooting from the home at 1 Odell Place and stopped at a nearby store to report the fire at 12:57 p.m., Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Herald Schapelhouman said. Fire crews arrived three minutes later and the fire was controlled at 1:45 p.m.

The owner was away at the time of the fire and has since been notified, Chief Schapelhouman said.

Firefighters from Menlo Park, Woodside and Redwood City fought the blaze that engulfed the 3,200-square-foot, 1920s-style home. Thick smoke from the fire blanketed the grounds and obscured traffic at El Camino Real and Atherton Avenue, which was temporarily closed.

The fire required services of 10 engines, four battalion chiefs, two ladder trucks, a breathing support unit, and three fire investigators, Chief Schapelhouman said.

The home's roof was made of heavy wood shingles, an inch in thickness, which Chief Shapelhouman said produces "quite a fuel load."

"This style of home wouldn't be built today because of the fire danger," he said. "Fire runs through the hidden spaces above the rooms and causes a lot of problems."

Preliminary damage estimates indicate a 100 percent loss. "There's significant interior damage," he said.

— Report by David Boyce of the Almanac and Bay City News Service.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:44 am

This fire illustrates the importance of having fire sprinklers. Had this home been sprinklered the fire would have been confined to the room of origin, an alarm would have been sent as soon as the sprinkler head at the point of origin was activated and the house would have suffered minimal damage. Fortunately, this fire did not occur at night time, when the vast majority of residential fires do occur and when the residents are usually present and asleep. As is usually the case with night time residential fires most children and seniors sleep though the sound of fire alarms- had that happened we would have had one or more fatalities.

This fire proves the wisdom of the decision by East Palo Alto and Atherton to require fire sprinklers in all new and many remodeled residences - both property and lives will be saved by those decisions.

Posted by Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:16 am


The estimaged structure loss will be $800,000.00 and the contents loss will be over $250,000.00 bringing the total loss well over 1 million dollars.

The fire is still under investigation.

No one was injured in the fire.

Both the Mayor and City Manager of Atherton met with both the Fire Chief and homeowner after the Fire to review the damage.

Once Athertons new ordinance related to altered or remodeled structures takes affect later this month, the home will be required to be re-built with a residential sprinkler system which will eliminate this type of extensive devestation from ever occuring again.