A fire at 1005 University Ave. caused heavy damage to the two-story home Friday morning and prompted responders to close a portion of University to traffic for most of the afternoon.
Smoke and flames shot out of a second-story window at the Crescent Park neighborhood home, according to Roger Bloom, Palo Alto deputy fire chief. The fire was reported shortly after 7 a.m. As of 9:30 a.m. the blaze had been largely contained, though some portions of the house continued to smolder for most of the afternoon.
Firefighters reopened the street to traffic at about 4:20 p.m.
The residents of the two-story, blue-green shingled Craftsman-style home at 1005 University Ave., at Hale, were able to escape.
Resident John Beamer said he woke up to the heat and smoke at about 7 a.m.; a fire had broken out in the room next to his bedroom.
He awakened his father, mother and grandmother.
"We tried to put it out at first because it was contained to one piece of furniture, but we couldn't do it," he said, dressed in a shirt, shorts and no shoes and standing outside his home.
"Everybody got out safely. My mom, dad, grandma and our dog," Beamer said.
Firefighters forged a three-pronged attack against the blaze, shooting streams of water from three hoses, including from a fire ladder, into the windows and collapsed roof.
Bloom said firefighters attempted to combat the fire from within the structure, but after 15 minutes the attic had caught fire and there was a potential for the roof to collapse. Several live electrical wires were dangling.
"We pulled out our crews for safety and went to a defensive fire attack," Bloom said.
Mountain View, Menlo Park and Santa Clara County fire personnel joined the Palo Alto Fire Department in battling the blaze. In total, five engines, three trucks, two battalion chiefs and 38 fire personnel responded to the blaze, Bloom said.
The structural integrity of the home was compromised after the roof collapsed, he said.
"We will do a full investigation of the structure before letting anyone in," he said. "The cause is under investigation."
Officials initially said an unattended candle started the blaze. Beamer would not comment on what might have started the fire.
Silicon Valley Red Cross volunteers came on scene immediately after they heard about the blaze, Norm Berube, a Red Cross volunteer, said.
They provided immediate assistance to the residents. Beamer's mother and grandmother watched their home burn from the corner. They sat in beach chairs and were swaddled in blankets provided by the Red Cross. They appeared concerned, but otherwise unharmed.
The Red Cross will help the family with clothing and other necessities and can provide hotel lodging for a few days, Berube said.
"Ten to 12 times a month we come out to house fires in the county," he said.
Traffic was being diverted from University onto Hamilton Avenue via Chaucer Street. It had backed up on University to the U.S. Highway 101 overpass. Access to University at Seneca Street was also closed off.