In the latest Around Town column, news about a fire crew providing much-needed joy to a family that was affected by a fire, construction at Stanford's Hoover Tower and nonprofits that won grants to further environmental initiatives.
EVERYTHING IS GUINEA BE OK … A family of four was devastated to hear that their three female guinea pigs didn't survive a Feb. 18 fire in their detached garage. The family's loss was visible to Palo Alto firefighter-paramedic Greg Coffelt, who responded to the 5 a.m. blaze at a three-apartment complex on Seale Avenue. "The guinea pigs were something that they really showed affection and love for," he said. Coffelt went out of his way to purchase a new guinea pig that same day, providing much-needed joy to the family's two children: 6-year-old Hayden and 4-year-old Teddy. With permission from their father, Coffelt and his crew teamed up to purchase the new brown-and-black pet rodent at a local Petco store. They then made the way back to Seale Avenue on their fire engine. "When we showed up back at the house, we rang the bell on the front of the engine and the kids were … kind of surprised and inquisitive." As seen in a Palo Alto fire Instagram post, the children's faces immediately lit up when they were presented with their new pet, who they named Candy Bear. "It was a really good feeling to be able to give back to them and turn their day around because not only did they have a bad day, but if I was in their shoes, I would remember getting a little gift like this from the fire department," Coffelt said.
A VIEW FROM THE TOP … Stanford University's Hoover Tower, a prominent landmark on the Midpeninsula, recently underwent repairs to replace a stone ornament at the top of the structure that was destroyed by lightning in August. Some pieces from the last orb were found 50 feet away from the tower. A three-man crew and the orb boarded a construction basket lifted nearly 300-feet to the tower's top last week. A "lightning arrestor" system was added to give the new orb extra security, according to a Feb. 22 article by Stanford News Service. They set up a lightning rod that runs 18 inches above the tower and 8 feet below ground. "The lightning arrestor system will protect the structure, the equipment in the building and, most importantly, the safety of the people on the ground," Zone Director Stephen Clarkson said in the article. Without the system, the tower's steel frame can damage the building and electronics when struck by lightning. A lightning counter system was also added at the tower's basement to monitor future lightning strikes at the building. The tower was previously struck by lightning in December 1970, according to Stanford News Service. Falcons typically flock to the tower during nesting season, so the university made sure the job was completed before the winged creatures are expected to arrive next week. To keep the falcons comfortable during their stay, the crew also set up nesting boxes for the birds to lay their eggs.
POWERFUL INVESTMENT … Acterra was one of 11 organizations awarded with a community outreach grant from Peninsula Clean Energy, which announced the recipients in a Feb. 22 press release. The Palo Alto-based nonprofit plans to spend the funds on conducting virtual electric induction cooking demonstrations, distributing information on building electrification to the public and online workshops and other work to educate first-time electric car buyers. A total of $316,440 in grants ranging between $15,000 and $40,000 were divided among the recipients for numerous efforts, including electrification; income-qualified power bill discounts and programs; electric vehicle rebates; and home energy assistance. "These grants will especially help residents in East Palo Alto and elsewhere in the county who have not only faced the harshest impacts of a struggling economy during this pandemic but historically have not had the same access to clean, affordable and reliable resources as wealthier communities," East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said in a statement.