East Palo Alto fires linked to wiring, combustible materials

Two house fires displaced 14 people

Two recent house fires that displaced two East Palo Alto families were caused by faulty wiring and combustible material left too close to a water heater, according to Menlo Park fire officials.

A blaze on Sunday, March 9, broke out at about 1:30 p.m. in a single-story home on the 2600 block of Fordham Street, displacing five adults and two children, according to family members.

The family was on their way to church when they received a phone call that their home was on fire, a family member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.

The fire appears to have started with the wiring in an illegal addition, fire investigator Jon Johnston said.

The blaze had started in the addition at the back of the house and spread to the main living area. The cause appears to have been electrical, and extension cords going to the illegal addition are believed to have contributed, but the cause

remains under investigation, Johnston said.

While it was mainly confined to the two rooms, smoke and heat damage permeated the small house, he said.

The Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter was on scene and assisted the family. No one was injured.

Six adults and one baby were also displaced in a March 6 fire that was reported at 9:21 p.m. on the 2500 block of Hazelwood Way. The fire significantly damaged the home, garage and destroyed a vehicle in the driveway.

It began when combustible material was left too close to the hot water heater in the garage, Johnston said.

Someone opened the door to the garage, saw the fire and left the door open, which allowed the fire to spread to the rest of the house, Johnston said.

The garage was destroyed, as was a vehicle in the driveway. Damage to the house was significant.

The Red Cross provided the family with shelter and other aid, volunteer Jim Camarillo said.


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis Anderson
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

I am reminded of 1948, when my older brother would come home from his high-school summer job helping build houses in Belle Haven -- east Menlo Park -- and lament, "I know I'm building slums." The material and technique used in building those homes were inferior and inexpensive, so they could be sold at big profit to families wanting to escape the dangers of Hunters Point and Oakland.
My brother's prophecy proved true, and within 10 years, once lily-white Menlo Park had its own ghetto of poverty and despair. At that time, East Palo Alto was a solid community of hard-working Asian-Americans and lower-middle class whites. Eventually, poverty and despair moved across Willow Road and by 1958, we had Ravenswood High and de facto segregation.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Dennis - since you know a lot about the local history, how come you didn't mention that so many African Americans and Asians weren't *allowed* to buy homes west of 101?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Dennis - I forgot to add - did you read the cause of the first fire? It had to do w/an illegal addition to the house, which likely has nothing to do with the original house's construction.

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