PRESS RELEASE Menlo Park Fire Protection District - March 4, 2018

Published on Mar 05, 2018 at 09:34a.m.

Menlo Park Firefighters respond to a tree into a house that was struck by lightning last year and use a Drone for damage assessment

Menlo Park Firefighters responded to a reported tree into a house on March 1, 2018, Thursday afternoon at 4.55 pm on Baywood Avenue in Menlo Park. 

Menlo Engine 1 arrived on-scene at 4.58 pm and Captain Jim Montalvo reported that they had a two story residential structure with portions of a Redwood Tree on the roof and in the driveway, with several vehicles visibly and severely damaged. Upon investigation a large branch had penetrated through the homes roof and into a second floor bedroom. fortunately, no one was in the room at the time and there were no reported injuries to the homes occupants, who were home but downstairs and inside the home when the tree struck the building and vehicles.

Captain Scott Hylton and his crew on Truck One laddered the building gaining access to the barn style roof, cutting and removing branches from the Redwood Tree so they could then cover the hole in the roof with a plywood patch and a tarp it to prevent water damage.

Battalion Chief Tom Calvert requested that one of the Fire Districts UAS/Drone Capable Response Units be deployed to the incident. Captain Chris Dennebaum on Rescue Two arrived on-scene and piloted one of the Fire Districts DJI Magic Pro Drones which was used to provide Incident Commander Calvert with real time situational awareness of the roof operations and an aerial inspection of the home as well as 130 foot high damaged Redwood Tree which was located next door at 118 Baywood Avenue.

Firefighters were informed that the Redwood Tree had been struck by lightening in September of 2017, when it sustained significant damage to the upper 30 foot section of the tree. That section, which had since partially died, appears to have been what separated from the tree in storm winds Thursday evening. PG&E had responded following the lightening strike last year and determined that the tree was not a threat to the power line infrastructure that runs adjacent to the tree. Homeowners also contracted through a private tree service to check the tree and perform any necessary trimming. 


Live streaming video feed and still photography from the Drone camera revealed several areas of concern for Commander Calvert that led to his order to secure and protect the area below the tree with barrier tape, clearly defining a safe / do not enter zone and having the owners immediately contact a private tree service that could remove the hazards. Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “we are relieved that no one was injured in this unique event which has now been determined as being caused by lightening last year. We continue to develop new use cases for our Drone fleet and increase our number of actual practical operations. In the past, there would have not been a safe and convenient way to have accessed and inspected this large Redwood Tree to better understand that it actually presented a threat to public safety below”. “Drones are a game changer, last week our Fire Marshal proposed using Drones for roof solar installation inspections so Fire Inspectors no longer needed to climb up on roofs to conduct those same inspections”, the Chief said.

Please credit Menlo Fire For The Photographs





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