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$320K damage in April 28 EPA apartment fire

Two-alarm blaze displaced more than 100 residents

A two-alarm blaze that displaced up to 120 people in East Palo Alto caused more than $320,000 in damage, fire investigators said.

The April 28 fire at an apartment complex at 1 Newell Court was not intentionally set, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said Monday (May 16). The fire caused $300,000 in structural damage and at least $20,000 in loss of personal property, he said.

Due to smoke, heat and fire damage, the blaze razed one third-floor unit and portions of the hallway. Investigators said the fire was accidental and was caused either by a malfunctioning wall heater or combustible items stored near the heater.

Water damage caused during the firefight also impacted five lower-floor units, Schapelhouman said.

The fire broke out at about 6:05 p.m. in the three-story complex. An 18-year-old woman had been working on her computer in the apartment she shared with her mother when the fire broke out. One of the apartment's newly installed smoke detectors alerted her to the fire, according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

The daughter found the fire burning against the bedroom wall and quickly woke her mother, who was sleeping in the room. Both were able to safely escape.

Firefighters had relatively good access to the structure and were able to aggressively stamp out the flames because the unit where the fire started was located on the complex's top story and was adjacent to West Bayshore Road, Schapelhouman said. The complex was not equipped with a sprinkler system.

— Bay City News Service

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