The home of Palo Alto's former city manager, Frank Benest, was extensively damaged in a fire on Saturday afternoon.
The fire broke out in a laundry room. The home is in the 2200 block of Bryant St., between North California Avenue and Oregon Expressway. Flames quickly spread to the second floor and the attic, Deputy Fire Chief Catherine Capriles said. The home became fully engulfed in flames, and it is a complete loss, Capriles said.
Benest's 15-year-old daughter discovered smoke and called 911. She, a friend and a nanny escaped unharmed, according to Benest, who was not home at the time the fire broke out.
The blaze jumped to an adjacent home, causing minor damage to the roof and attic. Firefighters evacuated an elderly woman and two dogs. They were not injured, Capriles said.
The three-alarm fire began at 11:57 a.m. Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and Santa Clara County fire departments responded to the blaze, which was extinguished by 12:50 p.m. Firefighters were putting out hotspots at 3 p.m. Police Chief Dennis Burns and City Manager James Keene were on scene.
The fire was stubborn, and it was tricky to contain, Capriles said. The back part of the home had been remodeled and had numerous small spaces containing smoke and flames. It is common for fires to begin with a clothes dryer, she added.
Benest and his daughter are the sole occupants of the home. Their insurance carrier will take care of supplying them with another place to stay, he said. He was on Caltrain on his way home from San Francisco at the time of the fire.
Benest was Palo Alto's city manager for 8 and a half years, starting in 2000. Since his retirement, he has been allowed to stay in the house he co-owns with the city until his two children have graduated from high school, according to the city.