Firefighters put out home blaze in Palo Alto hills

Neighbors spotted fire at two-story home while owners were gone, called 911

A house fire in the Palo Alto foothills near the Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club has been extinguished by personnel from the Palo Alto and Mountain View Fire departments.

Firefighters and two engines, a ladder truck and a rescue truck, were present to battle the two-alarm blaze in the 900 block of Laurel Glen Drive, according to witnesses. Additional engines had responded and were positioned in reserve nearby.

The fire was first reported at 2:30 p.m. by neighbors Jan and Bill Terry. Bill had been walking by and spotted the flames. He said he thought about fighting the fire with a garden hose but noticed that the flames were shooting out horizontally from the split-level stucco home, as if from a gas main. The Terrys called 911.

The fire shattered the home's windows and appeared to cause significant damage.

By 3:40 p.m. the fire had been put out, but smoke continued to waft from the building, witnesses said. Firefighters were throwing items out of the second floor and breaking down first-floor ceiling panels to access hot spots that could flare up again.

An initial crowd of a half-dozen onlookers had begun to disperse and new fire crews were replacing old ones.

The fire apparently started on the outside corner of the house before spreading to the garage and the room above the garage, according to Palo Alto Fire Battalion Chief Niles Broussard.

According to the Terrys, the homeowners have lived in the residence for some time and were not present when the fire broke out. The Terrys also noted that it took 17 minutes for the first engine to arrive.

The Palo Alto Hills neighborhood lies off of Page Mill Road. It is composed of 77 homes and the Palo Alto Hills Country Club and includes Alexis Drive, Laurel Glen Drive and Bandera Drive.

Had the fire broken out prior to Sunday evening's rain, it could have been a source of major concern due to the tinder-dry condition of the foothills.

-- Don Kazak and Jocelyn Dong


Like this comment
Posted by Christine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 6:27 am

So glad no one was hurt..But 17 minutes to get to a house!!! Maybe the city should open up Station 8 year round!!!!! The house could probally have been saved it there Station 8 was staffed full time! Hopefully this is a hint to the city.

Like this comment
Posted by openspace
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:38 am

The time the Palo Alto Fire Department made to that home was a lot quicker than it was for them to reach my House when my cottage had a fire in October. It took Palo Alto Fire 31 minutes to reach my house. It happened the day Fire Station 8 was closed for the season. They had to come from the Hanover station.

Like this comment
Posted by Remotte-Fires-Are-Hard-To-Stop
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:40 am

Many locales are recognizing that sprinkler systems are a better solution that manning fire stations in remote locations. Construction codes are being updated to require fire suppression equipment in home rebuilds, as well as new commercial properties.

If there is a message here, it is that Palo Alto needs to begin to think about residential fire suppression as an alternative to manned fire stations in the hills.

Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:55 am

Sprinkler systems are great, but you would still need to manned this station during wildland season. A wildland fire would destroy a house even with a sprinkler system inside.

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Posted by Remotte-Fires-Are-Hard-To-Stop
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:12 am

> still need to manned this station during wildland season

Perhaps. The issue is:

1) How long to detect a wildfire?
2) How long to get a truck up to this location?
3) How long to get two trucks up to this location?
4) How long to get "N" trucks up to this location?

Currently, automatic fire detection equipment is not be employed. If the city could employ equipment that would detect small fires reliably, then perhaps a manned station might not be needed.

Having a regional fire suppression agency for the hills should be considered.

Like this comment
Posted by Ashley
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Station 8 needs to be open year round. Yes a wildland fire is very dangerous and it took the first engine 17 minutes to get to a FIRE call, luckly the firefighters did a great job and saved the house.

But what if it were a medical call???? If you were having a heart attack you would be dead in 17 minutes, but if there were trained professionals that were down the street they maybe able to save your mother, sister, father, or even your child....

The fire department responds to all sorts of calls not just fires.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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