Christmas Eve house fire throws 11 people out on to the street

A fire this morning at a home on Oakwood Avenue in East Palo Alto badly damaged the first floor of the residence. Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

By the Daily Post staff

Fire struck a home on Oakwood Drive in East Palo Alto this morning, displacing 11 people from two families who were living there.

It was the second fire on the mid-Peninsula in two days. On Wednesday at 12:57 p.m., a fire damaged the entry way to the Camper Restaurant at 898 Santa Cruz Ave. in downtown Menlo Park.

“This is the second fire in two days caused by outdoor cooking,” said Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

This morning’s fire at Oakwood Drive and Bay Road in East Palo Alto was reported at 9:59 a.m. by a neighbor who saw smoke and went over to warn the residents, Schapelhouman said.

One of the residents grabbed a garden hose and tried to enter the first floor, where the smoke was coming from. But the fresh air caused the smoky conditions inside to flash over and the room erupted into fire, the chief said.

The first of four fire engines arrived at 10:06 a.m., and they had the fire under control by 10:36 a.m., according to the chief.

The fire was caused by a smoker or cooker that had been placed against the wall of the building, said Fire Marshal Jon Johnston.

The cooker pre-heated the room and its combustible contents, which started to smoke and were at the right temperature when the door was opened and oxygen entered the premises. That led to a flash, which started the fire.

The older 1,500-square-foot Spanish styled structure suffered heat and smoke damage throughout, despite firefighters quick response and actions, Schapelhouman said.

Damage to the house was estimated at $100,000 and $5,000 to its contents.Wednesday’s fire was caused by an employee putting outdoor cooker ash into a cardboard box and then setting it indoors, where it burst into flames, causing about $5,000 in damage to the restaurant’s entry way.

“Fortunately, employees were on hand, called firefighters and together they quickly controlled the fire and limited the damage,” Schapelhouman said.

Both fires were the result of human error and accidental in nature, Schapelhouman said.

Outdoor cooking appliances should not be to close to combustibles or buildings, and any ash that’s removed should be put into a metal can that is emerged in water before its disposal, he said.

The American Red Cross was contacted to assist the displaced families with temporary housing. Seven adults and four children lost their home in the East Palo Alto fire.


    • You should feel sympathetic… Sometimes you don’t get the whole story from the news… It wasn’t a resident that started the fire…. I’m a personal friend to the family… It was a guest….

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