Fire chief: Veterans' home was not up to code

Feb. 14 blaze on Bay Road in East Palo Alto displaced 14 veterans

A Valentine's Day fire at a home for veterans in East Palo Alto in which one resident jumped from a second-floor window to escape the flames was particularly dangerous because the house was not up to code, a fire chief said.

Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said Tuesday (April 5) that state building and fire code violations were factors in the Feb. 14 blaze at 1208 Bay Road, which displaced 14 veterans living there.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the East Palo Alto building and planning departments have been conducting an investigation into the two-alarm fire. Fire investigators determined that the blaze started at about 4:40 p.m. when one of the residents went to boil some eggs but mistakenly ignited a stovetop burner with a pot of oil and grease on it.

The fire quickly spread through the house, trapping several residents on the second floor. One jumped out of a window, and others were helped out with a ladder. No one was injured, but the fire destroyed most of the veterans' belongings and the home.

Investigators determined that the 11-bedroom home was privately owned but rented on behalf of the veterans by the nonprofit group Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing. Building officials said the home should have been classified as a boarding house because it housed more than six people, and should have been equipped with two legal exits from the second floor, a sprinkler and alarm system, and tools to help with an emergency exit, according to Schapelhouman.

"We were very fortunate that no one was injured or killed during this fire," Schapelhouman said in a statement.

"Arriving on the scene of a home with elderly veterans jumping out of windows is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to happen again," he said.

Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing did not immediately return a call for comment.

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Is the homeowner liable? It would seem obvious that more than 6 people would be living in an 11 bedroom house, in EPA anyway, no offense intended.

Like this comment
Posted by paresident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Do you need a license from the city to run a boarding house? We've got a neighbor who has about 8-10 people living in a home zoned for single family in Palo Alto. Can neighbors prevent someone from opening up a boarding house on their street?

Like this comment
Posted by veterans
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Why doesn't the Federal government do a better job of taking care of elderly veterans, instead of relying on low budget charities like this. Sounds like upgrading the home to be a licensed boarding house is outside this group's budget, so the veterans' only choices are living there or living on the street.

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

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