Town Square

Peet's and Calla may be shut for months due to fire

Original post made on Mar 18, 2009

There were coffee and scones this morning at Peet's Coffee & Tea at the corner of University Drive and Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, but money did not change hands.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 11:49 AM


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I had the opportunity to talk with a number of the affected merchants this morning. Clearly this fire will have a major impact on their businesses and there will be a prolonged delay before they will be back in operation. Thanks to the Fire District and superb mutual aid from surrounding jurisdictions this fire was confined to a single building - it could easily have taken out a whole block of businesses.

Hopefully all the other merchants on Santa Cruz who occupy buildings built years ago will realize that investing in improved fire detection and suppression equipment may be a very prudent thing to do rather than suffer the extended loss of use that will occur from a fire like this one.

It is short sighted to do only what is required by the very outdated City of Menlo Park regulations. If you are willing to pay for fire insurance then you should be willing to make a similar investment in fire prevention. The Fire District will gladly do surveys of any business that wants to ensure that its alarm systems are operating properly and to help them explore retrofitting fire sprinklers into their buildings.

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Posted by John B. Lomax
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Mr. Carpenter should have disclosed that he and the MP Fire Dept. want the city of Menlo Park to require automatic sprinklers in all homes as well as businesses. Having had to install sprinklers in a downtown building as a condition of remodeling, I know that the cost is prohibative. Those business men would be better advised to just increase their insurance to cover such a loss.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm

In fact, I have had my home retrofitted with fire sprinklers and I can assure you the cost of such a retrofit, the MOST expensive type of installation, was not prohibitive. And it certainly is saving me money on my home insurance and will avoid my family having to live someplace else for a year or more if our unsprinkled home had been badly damaged by a fire. Similarly, businesses should make an economic calculation of the cost of a long term business interruption and decide if fire sprinklers are a better alternative.

The new National Fire Code will soon require sprinklers in new homes regardless of what Menlo Park decides to do. You can wait until then and cross your fingers or you can be proactive. Your choice.

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Posted by Maya Fiamma
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:27 pm

How successful would sprinklers have been at getting to an electrical fire that started inside the walls? Firefighters had to hack through walls and ceilings to get at the source -- how would sprinklers have put out the fire?

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Very good question.

The origin of the fire appears, but it is not yet proven, to have been an equipment closet that would have had a sprinkler head in it if sprinklers were installed. The fire then apparently spread from that room through the electrical and ventilation chases to the inside of the walls and between the floor joists.

In my opinion, a sprinkler system would have extinguished the fire, and also sounded a proper fire alarm, before the fire had a chance to spread. Engine 6 would have responded in less than three minutes and the sprinkler system would have been shut off. There would have been zero damage to the rest of the structure and no smoke damage to the businesses in the building. When the building is repaired it will, ironically, be required to have fire sprinklers.

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Posted by fgsdf
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I went over and looked at the buildings and the damage didn't look that bad at all. The fact that it will cost a million shows how crazy construction costs are in the US.

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Posted by Purvis
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Um, you should see the interior and the second floor -- that's where the damage was.

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Posted by Salty
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I built my house in Atherton in 2005 and the cost to install fire sprinklers was approx $2 per sq ft. Prices are likely up a bit since then. Commercial installation is significantly higher because residential is pvc pipe and commercial is steel. I sell insurance, put sprinklers in your house and get a 25% credit on your premium. For your business the credit can be as high as 40%.

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Posted by Bulldozer
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 5:32 pm

What is the payback period on sprinklers via insurance discounts. My experience is that it would be on the order of decades. Further, the idea of having charged PVC in the ceiling for decades seems ripe for disaster.

Seems more cost effective to force people to have smoke alarms wired back to a monitoring service than to have sprinklers. Done properly, the alarm system can bring the resources quickly enough to prevent damage.

Instead, the government mandates systems which costs tens of thousands of dollars. They tax neighborhood water systems, requiring millions of dollars in water company related infrastructure expansion.

Sprinklers sound great on the surface. But, when you lift up the lid they smell rotten.