News

Gas leak caused Midtown explosion, house fire

Fire investigators says a gas leak caused the morning fire, but are seeking the source of ignition

Palo Alto fire and utilities investigators say a gas leak caused a violent explosion that destroyed an Eichler-style home on Maureen Avenue this morning. The explosion sent a fireball through the ceiling and raised walls of flames and smoke around the charred building.

They are still seeking a source of ignition, according to Emergency Manager Barbara Cimino of the Fire Department.

The owner of the home reportedly injured his leg on glass as he was leaving the house, assisted by a neighbor. Neighbors said the man's wife and child were not at home at 8:29 a.m., when the fire was reported.

Firefighters from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and Santa Clara County knocked down the flames and had the fire contained by 9 a.m.

There were no other reported injuries.

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The affected area was in the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by Cowper Street, Middlefield Road and East Meadow Drive.

Matt Sullivan, who lives across the street from the charred building described the event as a "gas explosion." He said said neighbors heard a "sonic boom" and saw a "wall of flames" in front of the Eichler.

The roof was blown off the top of the building and landed on its side near the abutting property.

"The home was completely engulfed in flames," Sullivan said. "All windows were blown out."

The fire was spreading to the neighboring building, at 440 Maureen Ave., but firefighters were able to knock down the blaze before it could cause extensive damage to that building.

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David Bell, who also lives across the street from the burned building, said the area around the house was surrounded by smoke within 20 seconds of the explosion. Bell said he ran across the street to the burning house and saw the homeowner stuck in the backyard, looking for a way out.

He said the entryway between the backyard and the front of the house was blocked with glass and debris. Bell and the homeowner climbed over a fence to the neighboring house before leaving the smoky premises.

The house was reduced to a charred, empty frame. Plumes of smoke hovered around the interior long after the flames were knocked down.

Bell said the fire was spreading to the neighboring building just as the firefighters arrived. The fire charred the side of the building, causing "moderate damage," Cimino said.

A witness at Fairmeadow School on East Meadow Drive said ashes from the blaze were fluttering down into the schoolyard, sending students inside their classrooms for their physical education classes.

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Gas leak caused Midtown explosion, house fire

Fire investigators says a gas leak caused the morning fire, but are seeking the source of ignition

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 30, 2009, 9:10 am
Updated: Wed, Sep 30, 2009, 4:01 pm

Palo Alto fire and utilities investigators say a gas leak caused a violent explosion that destroyed an Eichler-style home on Maureen Avenue this morning. The explosion sent a fireball through the ceiling and raised walls of flames and smoke around the charred building.

They are still seeking a source of ignition, according to Emergency Manager Barbara Cimino of the Fire Department.

The owner of the home reportedly injured his leg on glass as he was leaving the house, assisted by a neighbor. Neighbors said the man's wife and child were not at home at 8:29 a.m., when the fire was reported.

Firefighters from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and Santa Clara County knocked down the flames and had the fire contained by 9 a.m.

There were no other reported injuries.

The affected area was in the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by Cowper Street, Middlefield Road and East Meadow Drive.

Matt Sullivan, who lives across the street from the charred building described the event as a "gas explosion." He said said neighbors heard a "sonic boom" and saw a "wall of flames" in front of the Eichler.

The roof was blown off the top of the building and landed on its side near the abutting property.

"The home was completely engulfed in flames," Sullivan said. "All windows were blown out."

The fire was spreading to the neighboring building, at 440 Maureen Ave., but firefighters were able to knock down the blaze before it could cause extensive damage to that building.

David Bell, who also lives across the street from the burned building, said the area around the house was surrounded by smoke within 20 seconds of the explosion. Bell said he ran across the street to the burning house and saw the homeowner stuck in the backyard, looking for a way out.

He said the entryway between the backyard and the front of the house was blocked with glass and debris. Bell and the homeowner climbed over a fence to the neighboring house before leaving the smoky premises.

The house was reduced to a charred, empty frame. Plumes of smoke hovered around the interior long after the flames were knocked down.

Bell said the fire was spreading to the neighboring building just as the firefighters arrived. The fire charred the side of the building, causing "moderate damage," Cimino said.

A witness at Fairmeadow School on East Meadow Drive said ashes from the blaze were fluttering down into the schoolyard, sending students inside their classrooms for their physical education classes.

Comments

Carol
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:23 am
Carol, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:23 am

I pray everyone is okay. I saw all the action while walking this morning. Thanks to all of the Emergency workers pulling together to put it out before it spread to (very) neighboring schools!


moi
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:30 am
moi, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:30 am

I concur. Our emergency workers never get enough praise... they seem to only be heard of when there's a problem! THANKS PAPD & PAFD...


ninadora
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:37 am
ninadora, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:37 am

we heard the explosion while standing in JSL middle school at 829am. we all jumped, it was loud! one big THUMP!


mihaela
Hoover School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:42 am
mihaela, Hoover School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:42 am

i didn't hear the explosion, but i saw the big and thick smoke from far away (san antonio with middlefield). i went to see where it was coming from, and the sight was terrible: the roof (that's all i could see from the house, which was surrounded by trees and lots of police cars and fire trucks) was burning like a big carton box! the fire men were quick, but i guess the house is totalled :-( really unfortunate!


Franklin Eisenberg
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:09 am
Franklin Eisenberg, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Ashok Srinivasan
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:20 am
Ashok Srinivasan, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:20 am

My wife and were out for a walk and saw the smoke. A neighbour
said that there was a man in the house but that he was not
injured. Quite amazing considering that the roof was blown off.


Thanks Fire Depts.
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:27 am
Thanks Fire Depts., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:27 am
neighbor
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:49 am
neighbor, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:49 am

We live right around the corner. This house belongs to a very nice young family with a small child. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The mother and baby had left for work/daycare. The father was at home but escaped - a miracle - without injury. The family is fine except that they now have NOTHING! The fire dept. got here quickly and was able to save the house next door with some damage, but the house that exploded was a complete loss. Neighbor are pulling together for this family.


Helene
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:56 am
Helene, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:56 am

Is any more help needed? Clothing, food, whatever? How can I find out if there's anything I can do to help this family. I'm not in their neighborhood, but I saw the smoke today on the way to the Y and have been worried ever since.


neighbor
Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:04 am
neighbor, Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:04 am

We live around the corner on Rambow. I had already left for work, and my daughter was to drop her dog off so when my neighbor called me about what had happened, I called my daughter to tell her what had happened, she said she had already dropped off her dog and had come by way of Maureen and was thinking she should call the police regarding a VERY strong gas smell on Maureen. On her way to work, a few miles away, she noticed the big plume of smoke, so it happened within minutes of her driving past.


Annette
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:10 am
Annette, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:10 am

I want to remind the Palo Alto Weekly staff that this is the Midtown neighborhood.

We also walked by as the fire engines and news crews were hard at work. Out heart goes out to the family and anyone who has suffered a fire with loss to their home. If anyone knows the details about what the family needs, please send a note to [email protected] We will broadcast this as a public service.


Geoff
Los Altos
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:20 am
Geoff, Los Altos
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

Re the comment by Helene regarding immediate needs for clothing, food and shelter I would like to point out that the local American Red Cross was there at the scene to respond to those needs. Our volunteer Disaster Action Teams are on duty 24/7 to help victims of unfortunate incidents.


LP
Los Altos
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:22 am
LP, Los Altos
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:22 am

I think some drivers need another lesson on what to do in the event that emergency vehicles have their sirens on and honking their horns to ask for clearance? I saw a nice S class mercedes the other day and the driver didn't seem to care that there was a fire engine and just kept going... when the light turned green... he just kept going.

Same today - some people see the fire engine coming but still insist on turning left as the engine approaches the intersection.


YSK
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:28 am
YSK, Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:28 am

Yikes! So sad but happy they got out ok. Living in an Eichler myself would really like to know the cause at some point....

People really DO need to respect the Emergency Vehicle's Right of Way. If you can't just take that as a given, imagine if it was YOUR house or YOUR medical emergency....do you really want response teams delayed by selfish oblivious drivers?


Thanks Fire Depts.
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:28 am
Thanks Fire Depts., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:28 am

I agree with LP. As soon as a driver hears sees an emergency vehicle around, they are supposed to pull to the side of the road or just not drive even if they are on the opposite side of the street. There really should be policemen following ambulances and fire engines to ticket offenders - great revenue for Palo Alto.

Drivers are also supposed to move out of the slow lane when passing a parked highway patrol car.


CHP Officer
East Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:40 am
CHP Officer, East Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Jon
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:43 am
Jon, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:43 am

From the video, this does not appear to be an Eichler, but rather one of the more routine, unappreciated tract homes in the area. Not that that's any consolation to anyone, but just for the sake of accuracy ...


Tyler Hanley
Registered user
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:48 am
Tyler Hanley, digital editor of Palo Alto Online
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:48 am

Thank you for pointing that out Jon. We were originally told the home was an Eichler when on the scene, but you're correct, it is a faux Eichler. We've updated the story.


Joe
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm
Joe, Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Am very interested to learn of the cause of the explosion.


Neighbor
Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm
Neighbor, Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

It is not a faux Eichler. It's simply another developer of tract homes from that era.


Around the corner
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm
Around the corner, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

My first guess would be that since yesterday was a blustery cold day, it may be the first time in the season to turn the gas furnace on. If it was actually a gas explosion it could have been a simple mistake in working the furnace.


what
Charleston Gardens
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm
what, Charleston Gardens
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

no suspicions of terrorism! if it was east palo,youd be speculating on drugs ,whatever


Corinne DeBra
South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm
Corinne DeBra, South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Very sorry to hear about the fire; I'm glad the family is OK. Re: type of house, it is/was likely a Stern & Price home. (I live closeby in a similar house) and not an Eichler or "faux Eichler." Stern & Price homes were built around the same time, early 1950s. Many have been torn down or remodeled at this point. I feel fortunate most of us only have ash in our yards and not anything more serious, based on quick work of firemen and others.


Nothing nistoric in PA
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm
Nothing nistoric in PA, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Stern & Price? Early 1950's? These homes may be "historic". Don't we need to ensure that they are preserved at all costs. Remember since we do not have history like the east coast does--we have to manufacture our history--so anything older than 40 years should be considered historic. Also if someone even remotely famous ever stayed at a dwelling in Palo Alto, that home should be considered historic--for example if Elizabeth Taylor's fifth cousin, twice removed, stayed at a 5 year old home, that home should be now considered historic.


ConcernedPatriot
Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm
ConcernedPatriot, Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm

"Our emergency workers never get enough praise... they seem to only be heard of when there's a problem!"

Unintentional comedy at its finest.


Responder
another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm
Responder, another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Thanks to Palo Alto Fire Department, Palo Alto Police Department, and other Palo Alto Utilities, Building Division, and Public Works employees who also assisted in evaluating and restoring services to this neighborhood.


Neighbor
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:35 pm
Neighbor, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:35 pm

There it is, the once a year major house fire in Palo Alto. That's why we must have at least 16 firefighters on hand 24 hours a day, for that once-a-year big event.


Anymore?
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm
Anymore?, Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

The house may have been a Sterns & Forster, an Abercombie & Fitch, a Brown & Kaufman or even a Williams & Burroughs. Amazing how the press always manages to turn us all into Eichlers!!!


Another Neighbor
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm
Another Neighbor, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I am glad we have as many emergency workers as we do. When it's your kid that gets hit by a car, your husband who has a heart attack, or your house that's on fire, you'll be glad that we have the wonderful men and women in our Fire and Police Departments available at a moment's notice! And emergencies happen 24/7/365!!!


fireman
another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm
fireman, another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Neighbor, You have 31 fire personal on duty 24/7, 30 being firefighters. 2 of which are paramedics.
Firefighters do more than just fight fires. Medical calls are 80+% of the real calls.
You need everyone of them and more paramedics.

The department needs leadership and not blind followers and political kiss butts..


FM
another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm
FM, another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm
Humanoid
Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Humanoid, Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Does it really matter the "exact" type of house? The roof blew off the thing and it's destroyed. Luckily, nobody was killed or badly injured.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Does it really matter who the architect was, or the builder, or even what brand of paint it had?

The sad thing is that a Palo Alto family is now homeless, but fortunately safe. The home was about 50 years old and it went up in a few minutes. There must be more important lessons from this than learning about architecture styles from the 50s. I for one am interested in finding out the cause to see if there is anything I should do to my home.

Well done to the emergency services and if the family needs help from the community then please ask us as many would like to do what we can to help.


Parent
Monroe Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm
Parent, Monroe Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Looks like their furnace may still be under warranty. It was worked on within the last year:

Case / Application / Permit Number 08000-00000-02593
Type / Classification Building
Project
Building Permit / Building Permit
Address 452 MAUREEN AV
PALO ALTO, CA 94306
Parcel Number 132-11-052
File Date 10/10/2008
Status N/A
Status Date N/A
Valuation $0.00
Fees $107.00
Payments $107.00
Balance $0.00
Description FURNACE


Melyssa
JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm
Melyssa, JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I was in my spanish class at JLS and we all heard a sonic boom and saw a huge column of black ash and smoke. It was really scary... some of my friends said that they almost evacuated their classrooms. Thanks to all the firefighters!!!


Sonny
College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm
Sonny, College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm

From the description of the explosion, it sounds like it might have been a gas leak ignited by turning an appliance on or off. Was the gas company called to investigate? Anyone?


PA Firefighter
another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm
PA Firefighter, another community
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm

"There it is, the once a year major house fire in Palo Alto. That's why we must have at least 16 firefighters on hand 24 hours a day, for that once-a-year big event."

To Neighbor,

This was the second 2 alarm fire in one week. Also, how about the over 7000 medical calls we response to, per year.
You really need to do "your homework" before you post.


student
JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm
student, JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

We felt our classroom shake when the explosion happened... You could see huge plumes of smoke rise above the area of the house.


Anonymous
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm
Anonymous, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I was in my spanish class as well when we heard this huge sonic boom. We turned to look seconds after the sound and there was already smoke. Within 30 seconds, the smoke was black and rising. It was very scary, but I'm glad that the firefighters put it out quickly.


anonymous 2
Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm
anonymous 2, Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

i was in art class when we heard a huge boom! the art teacher said not to worry about it, but it smelled terrible! i was at JLS.


anonymous 2
JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm
anonymous 2, JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm

it was sooo scary! i was in art class when it happened, an when i was on my way to 7th period everyone was coughing.


anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm
anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm

I'm glad there's an adequate number of firefighters on duty. At the same time crews were dealing with this fire/explosion, there was a truck with 2-3 guys attending to a medical call in my neighborhood.


Sally Keep
Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Sally Keep, Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm

We were playing on the Mitchell Park tennis courts. Heard the explosion
and then ashes were coming onto the courts. You could hear the fire engines almost immediately. They are to be commended.


LN
South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm
LN, South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Of course, the type of house doesn't matter as much as the safety of the family. We should be very grateful they, and their neighbors, were not injured.

I do, however, find it interesting that none of the local papers ever seem to know about Stern and Price homes. They are usually referred to as "Eichlers," and now (above) "faux Eichlers." Actually, they predate the Eichlers in south Palo Alto; early Stern and Price homes were built on Waverley in 1949. Further development took place further south on Waverley, on Ramona and Emerson, and then in the area around today's fire. They were 2 or 3 bedrooms, one bath, single or double car garages, with lots of windows and open beam ceilings. They were built with sheetrock inside and redwood siding outside, which kept them from burning as easily as the Eichlers that were built later south of East Meadow.

I am reminded of the explosion (about 1965) of one wing of El Carmelo Elementary School. A gas main leaked and gas built up in one of the kindergarten rooms - causing a horrible explosion early on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, there were not any injuries at that time, either.


Norm
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm
Norm, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I live kinda close, at the soth edge of Midtown, but a bit west, between El carmelo School and Alma. When I saw the smoke from my apartment, it looked like it was Our Lady of the Rosary - or very close.

I generally leave my windows open a few inches, each and every one, until the temp shifts and my heat kicks on during the night. Last "night" (some where between 4 and 6 am) in cycled on at last once. Could some such occurance have contributed to a gas build up from a furnace malfunction????????????


Shelli
Mountain View
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm
Shelli, Mountain View
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Saw the fire from the freeway. Really glad to hear everyone is okay. Just want to say thanks to everyone that helped put out the fire and helped with the situation.


That's my street!
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm
That's my street!, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I understand that everyone is interested in this story, but please stop driving by to see what happened. The police, fire department, restoration/contruction crews are all trying to secure the area. Not to mention that there are three families out of their homes tonight. We don't need looky-loos! Think of the families. If this were your family, would you want everyone in town driving by? It's been a parade all day. Please just see the pictures online, watch the news tonight -- ABC7 has helicopter footage available online. Please consider the families and their feelings.


Jan
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm
Jan, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm

"Lots of people turn thier furnance's off in the summer? Might look someplace else for a gas leak."

Our furnace has been inactive all summer. We had a relative cold spell, in the past couple days, and our furnish suddently lit up this morning. If we had a serious gas leak, that could have been a bomb. Attics and crawl spaces should be well ventilated, in order to prevent small gas leak buildups. There is no such thing as a leak-free gas line over the long run.


Dona Smith-Powers
Southgate
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:52 pm
Dona Smith-Powers, Southgate
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:52 pm

When I heard the explosion around 8:30, I assumed it was a sonic boom, and I thought "This is what Palestinians have to be subjected to by Israel almost on a daily basis!" Then I found out that the 'sonic boom' was another kind of explosion and neighbors a few doors had lost their home. Some of us in the neighborhood are trying to figure out ways to help the family.


a neighbor
St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm
a neighbor, St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I believe the home was designed by Stern/Price in the 1950's.


student
JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm
student, JLS Middle School
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm

i was in math class and the class stopped to look out the window. we saw a lot of smoke and a helicopter, our teacher called the office and they said there was a fire a blocks away. One of my friends told me there teacher said when they heard the boom 'Oh its just the teacher next door slamming the closet door. During the passing period between 1 and 2nd period it smelled gross. Another of my friends called his house because he lives less than a block away. The news spread really quickly at JLS. I visited it after school and the house was completely chard, they said no one was hurt. It is really unfortunate.


Concerned
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm
Concerned, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm

You are so missing the main point here. A family has lost everything they own by accident. Unlike you who lost everything including what respect you had (If any)by choice. Is it the cities fault that you couldn't handle your job and quit? No! Is it the families fault they lost everything? No! You are such a little man who has nothing to lose...Why don't I feel sorry?


Stevie G
Mountain View
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm
Stevie G, Mountain View
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I'm curious about this expression, "to knock down" a fire, in the above article. I've never heard that before. That phrase is used three times in the above article, which seems excessive not to mention a strange image. I don't think firefighters knock down flames, per se. That action seems much more violent than dousing them with water. Sometimes they knock down doors or walls, but flames? I think there are a lot of other verbs that better represent this action. Sorry if this is off topic but I just can't get past seeing the same phrase repeated so many times that I've never heard before. Thanks.


bike commuter
Ventura
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm
bike commuter, Ventura
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm

For Palo Alto Utility customers:
If you smell gas call (650) 329-2579 from a neighbor's house- leave home immediately and don't use your phone!
Web Link
Web Link





Sonny
College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Sonny, College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I posted earlier questioning whether it was a gas leak that caused the explosion. Now, it seems that it was a gas leak. So the question remains as to whether the leak was inside or outside of the house. If everyone remembers, the Department of Transportation raided the Utility Department and confiscated boxes of records that allegedly showed falsification of employee training records. It would be interesting to see if any utility department work occurred in the last couple of months (including inspection of a new water heater installation) in this area. It's absolutely mandatory that gas or electric work be conducted by competent and trained personnel. Results are still pending as to whether or not the training documents had been forged. We should demand that only the best and brightest employees engage in utility work.


sharat bodduluri
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm
sharat bodduluri, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I was in JLS when i heard a explosion and saw a ball of flames!!!


Not for your own agenda please
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm
Not for your own agenda please, Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm

To bitter angry x-fireman guy: This is not all about you today. You have found a forum to vent a lot of disappointment. You may have valid viewpoints but so many times - not just you- but many people use someone else's sorrow for their own agenda.

Townspeople: One isolated event does not mean your own home is about to explode. Do due dilligence with your home safely inspections and you will be alright 99+% of the time.

Heroes in a cushy town are still heroes. They are still the ones who will run into a burning building for you and that gets my seal of heroic.

Regarding one of the first posts with the daughter/dog story. It is sad that it was just a thought only about a strong smell of gas. Perhaps making that call could have made a difference. Not to guilt trip, but trust your instincts in the future. Glad your child is ok.

About the drive bys: Guilty as charged but I am a block away, and on my way home had to see for myself and it is not about a photo op. It is about being thankful that something that massive did not kill a neighbor. I imagine for one moment not having a house all of a sudden and the loss is unimaginable. My heart is heavy for the family. We live here and we do care.

Kids at JLS: Nice to know you are interested in the city's website. You need to be heard too.


Ruth
Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm
Ruth, Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I would like to personally thank the firefighters and police for their amazing work.
I feel sorry for the family that lost their home, but am very thankful that no one was killed or hurt worse in an explosion like that.


Corinne D.
South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:07 pm
Corinne D., South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:07 pm

For those who have Stern and Price homes (most of them that are left are in midtown/south of midtown) that have outdoor vent areas (from small combined furnace and hot water heater closer located inside), be careful there isn't too much leaf and dust material blown into this closet from outside. (Leaf blowers can do this.) You don't want any extra potentially combustible material if there is a gas leak and/or electrical spark. I doubt this was the major cause of today's unfortunate fire/explosion, but it doesn't hurt to check into this. I've had furnace folks point this out to me in past years. These vents in these homes are relatively close to the ground, often in patio near front entrance. Also, I think several of us would like to extend help to the family/families. So, thanks for sharing this info.


Jay Thorwaldson
Registered user
editor emeritus
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm
Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

The explosion was definitively from inside the home, according to fire inspectors and Utilites people who are investigating -- fairly obvious if it blew upward through the roof, one would think. Good responses from the city in terms of getting out information on this emergency situation, making it easier for the Weekly's Palo Alto Online website to get the news posted promptly so it could go out on our 10 a.m. top-headline e-mail. Sign-ups welcome.


Long Time Resident
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:56 pm
Long Time Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:56 pm

I recall that there was a similar gas explosion and a house destroyed on Edgewood Drive....also an Eichler. Those homes are so cheaply constructed that that go up like a tinder box in no time flat. They used to refer to Eichlers as 5 minute or 10 minute Eichlers!

I am glad that nobody was injured!


Corinne D.
South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm
Corinne D., South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

This house wasn't an Eichler. More important to consider the people that were impacted, but for a discussion of causes and prevention, which might also be helpful, better to stick with the actual house type involved.


Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm

The house, Stern/Price or Eichler, burned very quickly. There is a fire station at Middlefield and E. Meadow so it was probably less than 10 minutes for them to travel the short distance to this house. There just don't seem be many fire breaks in these old houses.


Sonny
College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Sonny, College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Has it been determined that the leak was from inside the house? I remember when a house exploded on Wilkie Way at the corner of West Meadow and that accident was attributed to utility construction defects.
Is this a similar scenario?


Just wondering
Meadow Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:08 pm
Just wondering, Meadow Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:08 pm

A similar house fire took place in Los Altos this morning at about the same time. The morning was a little colder but two in one day. Is this the result of turning on your furnace for the first time this season?


EMS WORKER
Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:33 pm
EMS WORKER, Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Just so you know, there are more then 2 paramedics active in Palo Alto at any one time. Since the City does EMS transport and not just First Response with the Fire Department we have at least 4 medics working transport. Then Each engine will have 1 medic or some have 2. We happen to be blessed in such a town where we can afford the best of the best and highly qualified Paramedics in large amounts. Being a Palo Alto resident, and a Santa Clara County EMT, I run into alot of the men and women in those pictures from todays fire. I can vouch they are all excellent individuals and are active at all times of the day on all sorts of different assignments, from car accidents, to medical emergencies, routine fire duties and the occasional fire which has kept them busy over the last few months.

My prayers and wishes go to the family at this time and I am glad that yet another component of the community (The Red Cross) was there to help them. The fact that many of you have also volunteered your services and items needed in everyday life also proves to me that we live in a great community. If anyone needs a pat on the back its Palo Alto as a whole and the fact that we have a system with so many agencies and integrations and yet when it counts they all work flawlessly. However, before we get away with patting backs and honoring heroes we must focus on the rebuilding of a family in our community.


SW
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:03 am
SW, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:03 am

MY neighborhood is not on the drop down list: There are many of us living at Oak Creek Apts and Stanford West Apts who live in PA, but we seem to not count in elections, in newspaper discussions of neighborhoods. I guess renters don't count.

When something bad happens to you and your family, you will be happy to have so many emergency responders. Since the topic is fire fighters, I wonder if "PA Fireman" or someone else could explain why I often see crews out driving with the traffic as if they are patrolling or on their way to non-urgent location. Are they returning from a job? Is there some sort of patrol route? if the latter, a big rig certainly does not get good gas mileage. I have not noted rigs out on the streets driving in all the places I've lived (mid west, New england), as often as in PA. I am curious if this is my imagination or if others also notice this.


me
Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:06 am
me, Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:06 am

Does anyone know the age of the child? I have some kid's clothes to donate.


Tron
another community
on Oct 1, 2009 at 9:16 am
Tron, another community
on Oct 1, 2009 at 9:16 am

Just wondering: I was about to post the same thing. Strange that two houses had gas explosions in this area at roughly the same time. How would anyone know if their gas line had a fault? Should gas detectors be installed like smoke alarms?


moi
Midtown
on Oct 1, 2009 at 11:31 am
moi, Midtown
on Oct 1, 2009 at 11:31 am

"There it is, the once a year major house fire in Palo Alto. That's why we must have at least 16 firefighters on hand 24 hours a day, for that once-a-year big event."

When your family needs help...just remember that there is someone on duty for you too! You obviously have no idea how many times the PD/FD are called out for medical emergencies/fires/accidents etc... I'm thankful that their are dedicated people willing to risk their lives to save mine and YOURS...!

I think they deserve an apology from you.


EMS WORKER
Charleston Gardens
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm
EMS WORKER, Charleston Gardens
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Rigs may be seen driving around town for various reasons. The most important being code 2 traffic. Code 3 is when a fire truck of ambulance is called out lights and sirens. Code 2 is urgent but with no need of lights and sirens. Code 2 calls may be lift assists for other units already on a call (larger patient) as an example. Or if Law enforcement requests code 2, for reasons of stealth and not to attract attention to a situation.

On the other hand, they also have to post various locations, and may have to go to a refueling station which their base post might not have.

There are tons of reasons as to why a rig might be out and about, the last thing you need to do is worry about the gas bills, they arn't joy riding.


student2
JLS Middle School
on Oct 1, 2009 at 4:35 pm
student2, JLS Middle School
on Oct 1, 2009 at 4:35 pm

i was in math during the fire
i felt the explosion
it smelled like smoke
one of my friends saw the actual fire
right after the fire i had computers class at JLS
we printed out an article about the fire and took it to another student who was really worried because her house was near the fire
it's sad that people have to spend the whole school day worried that their house might have been the one that was burned down


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2009 at 5:24 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Student 2 raises a good point.

In a situation like this where the fire could be seen from the school it would make a lot of sense for the principal to make an announcement to the school that yes there is a fire close to school and give enough details to enable those who live close to realise that it was not their home and that the family was ok.

It would have been terrible for any child who saw this and perceived it was their own home and not told otherwise until they left school and went home. The kids should not have to help each other this way, the school should have done, but kudos to those who took the initiative to find out and pass on to their friend.


satety and wondering
Greater Miranda
on Oct 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm
satety and wondering, Greater Miranda
on Oct 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm

I did a controlled 1st seasonal use of my heater, just to test it. I smelled the burning dust I always smell early in the season, but no explosion.

I wonder, did this house use a Viking stove/oven? They leak so much gas that they have special venting requirements.


bike commuter
Ventura
on Oct 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm
bike commuter, Ventura
on Oct 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Tron-
Carbon Monoxide doesn't smell and it is wise to have CO monitors if you use gas appliances. Be sure you put near bedroom to wake you up as CO poisoning makes you sleepy. CO gas weighs same as air and might rise with warm air, so some smoke detectors are combination CO monitors too.

Natural gas has a strong sulphur smell due to the mercaptan additive so most people can smell a leak. I found this website about natural gas detectors: Web Link

Be sure all gas appliances have a local shutoff valve.

Call CPA Util. if you suspect any gas leak (650) 329-2579 (24 hours)


Nora Charles
Stanford
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:44 am
Nora Charles, Stanford
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:44 am

Bravo to the firefighters. You are all heroes, every day of the year.

My heart goes out to the family. Thank goodness they are all alright, and may they get through this tragedy with the help of neighbors and community.


Suwen
Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm
Suwen, Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm

In response to Tron, there might be an age thing with the gas plumbing. Certain pipes
have a general age issue. Typically, rubber has a lifetime of 10 years. The gas line might have a life time of 50 years. So Eichlers have been around for a little more than 50 years.
So I would expect most of the original gas lines are sort of reaching their lifetime.
If we see more of those explosions in the coming years, it might be time to overhaul the gas lines.


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