Atherton fire damages home, kills two cats

Officials still investigating cause of early-morning blaze on Mount Vernon Lane

A disabled security gate and a long private driveway hampered firefighters' efforts to extinguish a two-alarm blaze at a home in Atherton early Wednesday morning (July 13), a fire official said.

Power to the gate had been knocked out, presumably by the fire, so firefighters had to force their way onto the property at 80 Mount Vernon Lane, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

He said the driveway created additional challenges because the engine couldn't make it to the home and firefighters had to extend the hose for some distance. By the time firefighters made it to the blaze, three-quarters of the attic was on fire and part of the roof had collapsed, he said.

The homeowners were awakened by popping sounds just before 3 a.m., Schapelhouman said. They saw a glow in one of the closets and escaped, then called the fire department on their cellphones. They were not injured, but their two cats died in the fire.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze at 3:33 a.m. They had been able to remove most of the home's contents so only the structure sustained major damage.

"Based on the good salvage, it looks like they will have minimal personal dollar loss," Schapelhouman said.

He said investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire and estimate the damage. The house was being remodeled and was a couple of weeks from being finished, Schapelhouman said. He said the construction might have contributed to the cause of the blaze.

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by Ian Torrens
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 14, 2011 at 2:46 am

Atherton house fire during remodel (July 13).
We had remodeling done in part of our home on Country Club Drive in Los Altos in 2002, and we were sleeping in a different part of the house. One night climbing the stairs I saw a glow under the door of the master bedroom area that was being remodeled, and opening the door saw that there were flames beginning in different parts of the floor and closet doors. Fortunately we were on time to get the firefighters and kept the damage limited. The reason for the fire was that the contractors had covered recessed lights in the ceiling with paper for painting purposes, but had left them switched on. They were incandescent bulbs and had set fire to the paper, which had then fallen to the floor and set paper covering the floor on fire. We were very lucky to have spotted it on time. I was wondering if something this might have been the cause of the Atherton incident.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm

How devastated they must be with the death of their cats. So very, very sad.

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