Firefighters put out a smoky fire in parking structure

Palo Alto firefighters put out a small but smoky fire today (July 15) in the parking structure at 520 Webster St. Post photo by Dave Price.

Daily Post Editor

A small fire erupted at about 5:20 p.m. today (July 15) on the fifth floor of the Webster/Cowper parking structure in a homeless encampment.

Palo Alto police got there first and found some personal belongings and trash had caught fire, according to Capt. James Reifschneider. Police officers used fire extinguishers on the fire until firefighters arrived and completely put out the fire.

Firefighters couldn’t bring their trucks into the structure with its low ceilings, so firefighters walked up the stairs and used water from a fire hose to put out the smoky blaze.

Smoke poured out of the parking structure at 520 Webster St. for a few minutes, alarming people on the street who couldn’t immediately figure out its source.

Reifschneider said it appears as though embers spilled from the fifth floor and caused a small grass fire on the ground level, which was quickly extinguished.

There were no people or vehicles in the immediate vicinity of the fire and no adjacent structures were threatened. The garage sustained no structural damage. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Reifschneider said the police and fire departments will investigate collaboratively.

On July 2, the Post printed photographs of the homeless encampments that had popped up in the garage. One encampment even had a Weber barbecue. While homeless encampments are common in San Francisco and San Jose, they’re rare in Palo Alto.

Police on July 6 removed the largest of the encampments, but the homeless have rebuilt them. Yesterday there were three encampments in the parking structure.

A number of fires have broken out in parking structure encampments in the past couple of months. Pick up Friday’s Daily Post for more information.

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