Chief: East Palo Alto apartment fire not intentional

75 displaced in Newell Court blaze will be out for several weeks

See video of the fire, submitted by John Woodell.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm

What a relief that no one was injured. It took awhile to find info online about this. The smell of smoke, seeing it in the air, hearing & seeing choppers & rescue vehicles - all that went on for quite some time. That's a massive complex & I hope this spurs the management company to come up w/a good plan in case of fire - not to mention, figure out how many tenants really occupy the units.

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Posted by Mr. Ironic
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Dam glad nobody got hurt I know a lot of people over there. I always thought if a fire happened over there it would be very hard to put out due to the configuration of the complex and the fact that they're so many complex's in such a small area.

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Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

"Schapelhouman credited quick control of the fire with the department's aggressive response.

But the outcome could have been devastating, with a large loss of life and many injuries, Schapelhouman said. The apartments are on the fire department's target hazard list as being of significant life risk to the public, he said."

If the complex was on the fire dept.'s hazard list, why wasn't anything done about the situation? The fire officials expected a fire and it was just a question of when??!! So they waited?!

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Posted by Don't need to be a rocket scientist
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I'll bet this was arson.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm

What makes you think it was arson?

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Posted by gloria
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2011 at 12:41 am

Thank god above for our wonderful and quick responding firefighters. They are amazing. God bless them for their heroic efforts.

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Posted by Contented resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm

He says, "In the privacy of their apartments no one really knows what's going on?" What do you think is going on? We're eating, sleeping, watching TV, etc. etc. This is an affordable rental and I like it, although the management leaves much to be desired.

Even poor people are entitled to privacy!

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I think if you take his comments in full context - what he was trying to say is that there is no way to determine how many people are actually living in each of the units (and possibly exceeding safety/occupancy limits).

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

I agree w/Crescent Park Dad on this - the context was not knowing how many people are living in each unit. I'm not in an apartment, but have concerns about some of the small houses local to me - way to many cars for the occupancy to legal in a number of them. These people are lousy neighbors, too - and a lot of that is the responsibility of the management company who supposedly has experience with portfolios this size.

I am so sorry about this fire while simultaneously grateful that no one was injured or killed and that the fire crew could easily get to it. I hope that we're all informed as to the cause.

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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2011 at 11:38 am

LOL my old mold infested apartment burned down.

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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2011 at 11:43 am


When I lived there as many as 3 familys lived in the 2 bed room apts. Most of the time it was 2 familys though with the kids camping out in the living room.

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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm


What the fire chief was saying when he used the term "target Hazard" are words used by fire depts to describe buildings that by their size, age, condition, construction, occupancy' etc. Are buildings that will pose serious problems under fire conditions to life, and present firefighters with a difficult firefight. Big older apartment buildings without fire sprinkler systems, equal serious rescue challenges. Compounded by occupancy rates higher than the expected means more potential deaths or injuries. "Target Hazard" describes a building where the fire dept knows the building will not be a easy fire to access and or contain. They spend extra time doing building inspections by crews before a fire seeing best access for ladders, hose lays needed, construction features, ventilation methods that might be needed, fire dept equipment best access features, hydrant locations, resident storage habits, etc etc etc.
The Chief was basicly trying to say the dept spent extra time at this building for strategy reasons, "target hazard" doesnt mean code violations most times. It just is saying the building is going to be a TOUGH fight and it is not going to be an easy fight. The FD wants to know their people are very familiar with the building and it's challenges. With thousands of buildings covered by a dept they are just saying that "target hazards" are the ones that possibly will cause great loss of human life and or huge dollar loss in the event of fire, add design and or constructiion features that promote rapid fire spread and you get a "Target Hazard". The term does not mean the fire dept sat by and did not correct a wrong or ignored code violations. The fact is many buildings were built years ago before stricter codes were put in place, no fire sprinkler, limited access, features that promote smoke and fire spread, etc. The fire dept can't change what was built or mandate the owners add fire sprinklers in many cases. They can only prepare ahead of time in case a fire does occur. So that if a fire does happen in a "target hazard" that hopefully the dept will have a much better chance of containing the fire and putting it out quickly. It looks like in this case the fire dept did just that. This fire could have resulted in many lives lost, especialy if it happened in the middle of the night.

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