News


Palo Alto house destroyed in morning blaze

Palo Alto firefighters respond to fire in Fairmeadow neighborhood

Palo Alto firefighters on Wednesday knocked back a two-alarm house fire on the 3600 block of Bryant Street, though not before the flames completely engulfed the mid-century Eichler home, sending up a cloud of smoke that was visible for miles.

The resident of the brown, single-story house at the corner of Redwood Circle and Bryant, Wayne Martin, said he awoke to the smell of smoke and saw an extension cord to his bedroom on fire. He was able to escape immediately.

"It's an Eichler, so I have a door out of my bedroom," said Martin, who added that he is physically uninjured.

Firefighters were dispatched to the "fully engulfed fire" at 10:44 a.m., according to radio dispatches. By the time they got to the scene, the fire had spread to other rooms.

Firefighters initially fought flames on the exterior of the house, deeming it dangerous to enter the interior. Some electrical lines fell in the back of the home, said Deputy Chief Catherine Capriles.

By 11:30 a.m., the giant black cloud of smoke billowing up from the house was drastically reduced as firefighters hosed down the building. Firefighters then went inside the house to check for and remove flammable objects.

It didn't take long, however, for fire officials to determine that very little would be salvaged. Because famously airy Eichlers typically have wood paneling and lack sheetrock or other insulation material, they tend to flame up quickly, firefighters said. The large quantity of books and other materials inside the house contributed to the quick spread of the fire. When the time firefighters arrived at the scene just minutes after the fire was reported, they were welcomed by 20-foot-tall flames.

Fire officials briefly evacuated surrounding houses, and a few neighbors milled about on the street watching as fire, police, utilities and other officials addressed the incident. Utility officials also shut off gas service for about 30 customers in the area.

Police closed Bryant and Redwood Circle in the neighborhood while firefighters battled the blaze, which they were able to fully suppress by about 11:45 a.m.

Standing with friends outside of the home he's lived in since 1978, Martin surveyed his situation.

"Life is over. Everything I own is up in flames. A lifetime of work and over 1,000 books, which probably contributed to this," Martin, who is retired, said somberly.

As firefighters sprayed foam onto the burnt structure to help the wood absorb water, Martin said he didn't know where he would go.

The American Red Cross was expected to arrive to help Martin, Capriles said at around noon. Fire crews were expected remain on scene for a few hours to ensure that all embers have been put out, potentially flammable material is removed and the area is safe, she said.

Wayne Martin is accepting help. Those interested in assisting him can email wmartin46@yahoo.com.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:29 am

Glad to hear no one was hurt. Is this why the helicopters? There has been a lot of helicopter noise even over by the high school for the last half gour.


8 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:30 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I hate to see a fine old house destroyed. This will see if the one story covenant still applies to building the new house.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

What woke him up? Smoke, noise, or a fire alarm?


12 people like this
Posted by midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:42 am

I was in the neighborhood and saw the very tall plume of smoke. The house was engulfed in flames in minutes. Even the top of the redwood tree is singed.

Please check your smoke alarms and check your electrical appliance cords for frayed wires.


7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:54 am

We saw the fire at JLS. I was in class and I'm typing this from school. Nobody was evacuated but we saw a huge cloud of smoke about a block or two away. It looked like it was coming from the gymnasium but it wasn't.


Like this comment
Posted by Person
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:58 am

We saw the fire at JLS. I was in class and I'm typing this from school. Nobody was evacuated but we saw a huge cloud of smoke about a block or two away. It looked like it was coming from the gymnasium but it wasn't.


1 person likes this
Posted by A Person At JLS
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:59 am

We saw the fire at JLS. I was in class and I'm typing this from school. Nobody was evacuated but we saw a huge cloud of smoke about a block or two away. It looked like it was coming from the gymnasium but it wasn't.


41 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 2, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I know that Eichler, I used to live right there. I'm so sorry Mr. Martin, that this happened to you. I hope you can rebuild your home and your life.


37 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Poor guy. Hasn't Wayne commented on here?

I'd be happy to help donate desired books and rebuild his library when he gets his house back.


33 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Sorry to hear about this, Wayne. Like probably many others here,
I know you only through your prolific online comments over the years.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:59 pm

"Completely destroyed" as opposed to partially destroyed?


31 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 2, 2015 at 2:35 pm

My sympathies to Mr. Martin for his loss of home and belongings. Looks like he escaped just in time.


I hope that this story encourages readers to check their house for fire hazards such as extension cords, gas appliances, dryer vents and holiday lights.

Home fire safety tips: www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/33366


35 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Best wishes to Mr. Martin. I know he is in a state of shock and understandably feels devastated by the loss of his belongings.

The thing for him to remember is that his life indeed is not over. His stuff may be gone, but he is alive and nobody was hurt. He can accumulate more things, even though the treasures are irreplaceable, the memories will still remain.

Stuff is just stuff, even sentimental and/or valuable, but still stuff. I think he may just be surprised how many friends, neighbors and community members are willing to help him rebuild his life. These are valuable too.

The sun will rise tomorrow and life will return to a new normal.


32 people like this
Posted by Bill Copeland
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Ouch. Terrible.
I heard about this from my daughter in law who lives a block away.
If you get this message Wayne, or if anyone has a chance to talk to him, let me know how to contact him. I will do as much as I can to help, even though I live in Tacoma, Washington now.

Wayne is a brilliant computer analyst and researcher. He needs help getting back on his feet. What can we do?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:15 pm

2 threads


11 people like this
Posted by SuperD
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Mr. Martin, very sorry about your loss. Fortunately no injuries - it could have been much much worse. Thank goodness you were not trapped inside.


10 people like this
Posted by Bill Copeland
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Terrible. Ouch.

If anyone gets a hold of Wayne, get info on how I can connect with him.
I'm in Tacoma, Washington, and I will help all I can. - See more at: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor person
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Likewise I am sorry to hear of this fire affecting Wayne Martin - who has posted very intelligently on Palo Alto Online for years. I understand how he feels about books - perhaps there is a way we can help.

By coincidence, I just got a new plug put on an old "mid century modern" lamp I was given through my family - this was at a lighting store where it was examined and deemed to need improvement and so I did it for approx 20 bucks. I hadn't used it but went in to get a new shade. The guy showed me the plug was very old and likely unsafe.

So if you have older cords, plugs, extension cords, etc., it may be a good idea to show them to an electrician or lighting staffer to check on safety of these possibly outdated items.


34 people like this
Posted by Thankful!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Thank you FireFighters for everything you do! This man and his neighbors owe so much to you. You save surrounding homes from also burning and cared for the homeowner.


4 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2015 at 6:44 pm

@Jim (Barron Park) who wrote:

'"Completely destroyed" as opposed to partially destroyed?'

Yes, "partially destroyed" means part of the structure survived. Fire doesn't necessarily always destroy everything.

Here's a recent fire in Mountain View that apparently destroyed the garage, but not the rest of the house.

Web Link

That's why firefighters fight fire: to save part or all of a structure. Their job is to save as much of the property without undue risk. That's part of the job description of firefighters.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Wayne, so sorry to read this. Call if we can help. Jo Ann


44 people like this
Posted by So Saddened
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Wayne, Iam so sorry for this devastating loss! I have always enjoyed your comments as the voice of reason, and I was so sorry to hear that it was your home destroyed by this fire.

Let folks know what we can do to help you, and we will all chip in! Let us hear from you in this forum-- though it is probably the last thing on your mind right now!


52 people like this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Dear Friends of Wayne,

A fire can destroy someone's ability to be productive for years and years. The challenges are unimaginable to those who haven't lost everything.

The burdens on people in the immediate aftermath mean anything you can do to help with your time (without burdening his) will help. So, for example, get together as a group and designate one person to interface with Wayne for awhile in order to help with immediate needs. The well wishes are important but it's so important that it come in a way that itself doesn't create another burden. Don't just say you'll help if he asks, he probably won't. Come together and get him clothes. (If he says don't worry he's insured, tell him he can give them away to others when he is done.) Offer to do his laundry for awhile. Arrange homecooked meal delivery as a group. Offer to shop for him, and to return things too. Get together as a group and put together basic household items. Recovery will take a really long time. It's easy to say it's just stuff, but that stuff made it possible for him to lead his life. Losing everything sometimes feels like being erased.

If you do set up an event to help, please share so those of us out here in the community can help. Best Wishes, Wayne. I have only met you once but have read your posts and admire your intelligence and wit. I wish you a smooth recovery.


16 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2015 at 12:07 am

iSez is a registered user.

His using his own name on the Town Forum instead of an alias has sure brought strangers together. I recall reading his postings too. Good thing he was able to escape the fire.


12 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2015 at 12:09 am

iSez is a registered user.

Agree with "Been there" that people don't generally ask for help and to just start helping is easier on the person.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

I hadn't put two and two together to realize that this is the same Wayne Martin who posts here. I don't know him at all, but feel that I do know him because of this. I don't always agree with him, but nonetheless his posts are thoughtful and succinct.

It comes through even more when there is a connection to those who are affected so badly in an event like this.

I hope that the Palo Alto community can be offered some way to help. If there is an organized drive of some sort to help, please let us know.


19 people like this
Posted by Marian
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:24 am

If Wayne has some categories of books of interest to him, perhaps someone could post that and tell us how we can offer books to him.


14 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

Mr. Martin and I have often disagreed on political issues, but I am very sorry to hear about his loss. He is a neighbor and a good man. Please let us know what community members can do to help him through this.

It's a blessing he escaped safely.


7 people like this
Posted by Diane Jennnings
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I'm sorry, Wayne, that you have lost your long-time home and possessions.


9 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Being raised in an Eichler I wouldn't be surprised if the cause was from an over loaded extension cord, possibly with a heater attached. Due to the failure over time of the original Eichler floor heating, many owners will turn to baseboard or space heaters, not good if you have a lot of papers and books. Financially he should be just fine due to the lot still being worth two million plus. With the demand for lots in this area he should be able to make a positive adjustment to this loss other than the personal items themselves and the attached sentimentality. Two lessons to be learned from this; follow all the safety advice from your local fire department and save all valuable documents in the Cloud or other online services.


9 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 3, 2015 at 2:51 pm

First: Wayne, I am truly sorry for your loss and for having to go through this horrific experience.
Second: "Eichlers ... tend to flame up quickly." This is another reason to question why we would prioritize the preservation of these structures in Palo Alto to the point of restricting homeowners' ability to build better, safer homes. Old is not always best.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 3, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Eichler design promotes the rapid spread of an interior fire.

Fortunately, that same Eichler design makes it comparatively easy to installfire sprinklers.

A fire in a sprinklered Eichler woud not spread beyond the room of origin.


8 people like this
Posted by Maria D
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 3, 2015 at 6:49 pm

The libraries in this area have so many donated books I am sure we can use that as a resource to re-build Wayne's library. We just need to know what to collect to give to Wayne. I have not experienced this but being a fellow book/ephemera lover I would also be very devastated at such a lose.


9 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2015 at 7:51 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

As a computer and network analyst, I have made and kept all my reference materials on hard drives. When I research other areas, like antenna design, I got some of the ARRL literature on the stuff.

I can put all that information on a backup drive and ship it out to someone like the Palo Alto On-Line Staff. If he needs a laptop, I can ship out an Averatec that I use instead of a e-book reader.

Just ask. Uploading the library is the hardest part.


9 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2015 at 7:54 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

BTW: I have several working Averatecs, so I would just pull another out of the box.


8 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Just wondering if there's someone in charge of collecting items, donations, whatever for Wayne.


15 people like this
Posted by So Saddened
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I would be happy to buy him a Kindle paper white. They hold loads of books, weigh very little, and are very portable. After a while, you don't even miss turning pages anymore.

I know how heartsick he must be about his books. I have several from 19th century England and Scotland that are irreplaceable.

I also had to donate many, many books--about 500--when we moved to Palo Alto from a larger house in Fremont. Some of them I still miss.


6 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2015 at 7:13 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I just asked the moderator who will be in charge of co-ordinating these wonderful people who have offered so much.
Believe it or not, a local " paper " in the community takes on this task; it helps a community " pull together ".

I'm a native from Wisconsin. When a farmer loses his barn to fire, the neighboring farmers help out until his barn is rebuilt. These farmers know that if their barn ( or whole farm buildings ) are wiped out by a fire or tornado, neighboring farmers are there to help out.
That is the spirit I see here. This reaction spells COMMUNITY.

I hope Mr. Martin accepts these hand ups instead of hand outs in the spirit in which they are given.


1 person likes this
Posted by MD from TO
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2015 at 9:26 am

MD from TO is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I want to let everyone know that I am OK, and appreciate the support and warm thoughts that have been extended towards me and my situation by the on-line posters.

I've spent the last couple days trying to reconstruct my identify--which seems to revolve around having a picture-ID, issued from a government agency.

I'm staying with friends in Midtown for a few days until I can get some of the basics of day-to-day living sorted out. Some folks have provided some clothes, which will doubtless prove helpful in the coming days.

Thanks again for your thoughts and support.

Wayne Martin


9 people like this
Posted by So Saddened
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Dear Wayne, I am SO relieved to hear from you, and I know I am not alone in this thought! I am glad you have someone to stay with, and that you are okay.

I don't know how I personally would hold up emotionally if MY life literally went up in flames, but my guess is that it would not go well and I would be in a state of grief, once the shock began to ebb.

Please know that my heart aches at the thought of my " voice of reason" being in this situation at all......so many irreplaceable things lost.

Don't stop writing and posting, okay!?


5 people like this
Posted by Melissa Michelson
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 7, 2015 at 8:20 am

Wayne, on behalf of your neighbors here in the circles, we're glad to hear you're okay. I hope you'll let us know if there are things you need, etc., or other ways we can help.


4 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sir: my offers still stand. Contact me through the Palo Alto On Line offices when you are ready. No hurry as you may have more important things to do at this time.

For the others that need important documents safe from a house fire, the refrigerator or freezer is a good place to keep documents as many are charred on the outside but saved inside. That is what local firefighters told me.


Like this comment
Posted by Gary Martin
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2015 at 12:16 am

[Post removed.]


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

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