MENLO PARK FIRE DISTRICT - Neighbors smelled smoke and called 911 - Firefighters save home on La Loma Drive in Menlo Park

Published on Jun 04, 2018 at 11:30a.m.

NEWS RELEASE - Friday, June 1, 2018]

San Mateo County Public Safety Communications (PSC) dispatchers received an emergency 911 call at 9.24 pm Thursday night from the neighbors of a home located on La Loma Drive in the Sharon Heights area of Menlo Park that was being renovated, vacant and on fire last night.

The neighbors had first smelled smoke and thought it was a barb-q but upon further investigation when they went outside, they could see fire inside the two story home.

Menlo Fire Captain Rod Brovelli and his crew on Engine Four were the first to arrive at 9.27 pm. Brovelli reported that they “had a large, two story, hillside residential structure that was under construction with fire visible inside the middle of the building on the second level”.

Complicating and challenging the firefighting efforts was exterior scaffolding which partially surrounded the large 6,000 square foot tri-level hillside home, which was under construction.

Firefighters located the fire in a room behind the first floor parking garage, it was burning between the first and second floors and had spread into a stairwell that connected the lower floor of the home to the upper floors of the building.

Menlo Fire Battalion Chief Tom Calvert said “we caught this fire just as it was starting to mushroom and expand into the upper floors of the building. If it had been allowed to burn a few minutes more, the whole house would have been on fire due to the significant preheating and smoke propagation”.

Using hand-lines from Menlo Engine 4, firefighters attacked the fire from above and below, while simultaneously ventilating the structure to let the smoke out, preventing a flashover and increasing their visibility inside the structure. The Fire was brought under control at 9.47 pm but firefighters were on-scene until 2 am Friday morning insuring it was completely out and assisting the Fire Investigators.

Five Fire Engines, a Ladder Truck, Rescue Squad and two Battalion Chiefs we’re deployed as part of a first alarm assignment for a total of 24 Firefighting Personnel. The Woodside Fire Protection District contributed a Fire Engine crew of three and a Battalion Chief under the County’s Automatic Aid Agreement. All other units and personnel came from the Menlo Park Fire District.

Three Fire Investigators, including Fire Marshal Jon Johnston, spent hours combing over the seat of the fire in order to find its cause. The home was not equipped with residential sprinklers nor did it appear that they were going to be installed as part of the remodel.

Both the General Contractor, responsible for the construction and homeowners  showed up after the fire. They were extremely helpful, cooperative and were interviewed by the Fire Investigation Team. The General Contractor had closed up, secured and left the job site at about 4 pm earlier in the day, Thursday afternoon. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said “the combination of the neighbors timely discovery of this fire and the firefighters catching it just as it was about to spread into the upper floors, prevented this fire from completely destroying the house. The access challenges the firefighters faced due to the construction, didn’t help, but they pushed past them. We are estimating that the damage to the structure is around $150,000 but could go higher based upon where the fire occurred and the damage it created within the first and second floor supporting members and the extensive smoke and heat damage throughout the building.

Photo Below - Firefighters on Menlo Truck 1 cut apart a garage door so that other Firefighters can gain access to the fire in a room and stairway behind the garage. Please credit Fire Photographer Peter Mootz.

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Photo Below - Fire Investigators with the Menlo Park Fire District examine a first floor room where they suspect a fire started in a home under construction late Thursday night on La Loma Drive in Menlo Park. Please credit Menlo Battalion 1

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