Firefighters from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District were still at work this morning trying to extinguish hidden pockets of fire that remain from a structure fire that consumed three connected portable buildings on the campus of Beechwood School, a private K-8 nonprofit school located at 50 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park.
No one was injured in the one-alarm fire, but the three buildings are completely destroyed, and the investigation as to the cause and the estimate of damages will not begin until all the fires are out, maybe around noon today, Sept. 13, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman told the Almanac. "That's unusual," Chief Schapelhouman said about the longevity of the fire.
Firefighters arrived shortly before 4 a.m. this morning and "aggressively attacked" the fire from inside the buildings and out. But when firefighters went up on the roof to "ventilate" it with fire axes, they noticed the roof was "spongy," and a battalion chief on the ground noted that the walls showed signs of buckling outward. Everyone was ordered out of the building and off of the roof, which subsequently collapsed, Chief Schapelhouman said. "It wasn't worth getting anyone hurt," he said.
Arriving firefighters were initially delayed in accessing the fire due to locked gates at the entrance to the school and bars over the windows of a classroom, he said.
All told, there were 15 firefighters on the scene. Also participating in fighting the fire were firefighters from the Redwood City Fire Department.
Of the three buildings, one was in use as administration offices and two were classrooms, all of which contained "a lot of combustible material," the chief said.
A post on the Beechwood School website said the classroom housed the third grade. A back to school picnic scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15, has been canceled.
A spokesperson for the California Family Foundation, which runs Beechwood School, said the plan is to close the school for two days and reopen on Monday. All parents have been informed, she said.
The school, which enrolls about 170 students, was in the news this year when the Menlo Park City Council agreed on April 17 to sell 1.5 acres on Terminal Avenue so the school could expand.