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Candle-caused fire destroys Palo Alto garage

Original post made on Dec 23, 2010

An unattended candle was the cause of a stubborn fire in a detached garage Thursday morning in the 800 block of Loma Verde Avenue in south Palo Alto, fire officials reported. The blaze destroyed a detached garage at the rear of the property that was full of stored items and also served as a living unit.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 23, 2010, 9:47 AM

Comments (18)

Posted by Loma Verde neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Many thanks to the fire department(s) for their quick response and sustained efforts to control this blaze!

Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2010 at 10:00 am

Thank you the the brave men and women of our fire department for stopping this fire and keeping any other structures from getting damaged!!

Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 24, 2010 at 10:47 am

Thanks again! We appreciate the care taken by the fire dept in putting out the blaze and checking the area. Hope the property will be cleaned up so it's no longer a fire hazard.

Posted by Happy Neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

This was a tragedy averted.

Over the years, neighbors to this house have complained to the City about the excessive number of unregisters cars stored on the lot, massive amount of junk stored in the yard and on the home, and number of transient renters that cycle through the house.

When the owner was approached about the debris strewn property, he was typically belligerent and told us that how he kept his property was none of our business. In the end...he planted a hedge to hide the mess from the street.

This may be an unfortunate case of a hoarder who needs some medical assistance.

Again...this could have been a huge tragedy involving many adjacent homes. I hope the City building inspector takes an active approach to this problem.

Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm

The problem is when you have this much "junk", you put your neighbors at risk. I have always worry about this house.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I was running down Loma Verde that morning, and witnessed the events leading up to the arrival of the first fire truck. From the time I first saw the column of smoke running from Bayshore, till the first fire engine appeared was approx 12-15 minutes, rather long I thought. Then it appeared to take another 5 mins to get water flowing. Maybe it was just at the shift change or something, but just a heads up, you may be on your own the first 15 minutes of a fire. About 8 years ago, I saw a fire in the Hawthorne Apts, and it only took the FD about 3-5 mins to get there, and they had water on it immediately. This crew just didn't have that kind of response.

Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 26, 2010 at 12:22 am

Another complaint about the rescue crews not doing their job correctly - disgusting. Jim, maybe they took so long because no one had dialed 911 because they all thought everyone else had. The closest fire station is at E. Meadow and Middlefield, which is only one mile away. Highly doubt they took 12-15 minutes. Even during a shift change, those men at the end of their shift would easily work overtime if that alarm was ringing. Lazy men do not choose to be firemen. You ever see how physically fit they are?

Posted by Knows Something About Fires
a resident of another community
on Dec 26, 2010 at 11:10 am

I am NOT a firefighter, but do know something about fires. Tim is sadly misinformed about how fire suppression works and only serves to promulgate the nastiness that infects the typical anti-PAFD present on the PA Online. The Mitchell Park station was first on scene and arrived within 5 minutes of the ring down. Shift change was not a factor - getting the 911 call was. A quick survey of the fire indicated numerous hazards (including multiple propane tanks, car parts, numerous flammable materials, and unknown hazards not visible through the smoke/flames/material}. Additionally, access to the structure was a difficult location to lay in hose. The 75 minutes required to put down this fire (with 3 attack points under constant flow) indicates how challenging this fire was. Not to mention NO additional losses for neighbors. This was a case of "well done" by the PAFD, not necessary for a "heads up", Tim

Posted by April
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I had heard that they tried to "fight" the fire before calling 911. Not very smart. This might be why it took some time before the fire dept was arrived.

Posted by Judy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2010 at 6:04 am

I have a question for the authorities in Palo Alto. If the comments from Happy Neighbor are correct, and the garage illegally housed residents along with debris, why was the owner not sited and the situation corrected? Certainly was a potential tragedy as well as a constant annoyance to the neigbors.

Posted by Code Enforcement?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:06 pm

It sounds as though City Code Enforcement should be doing something about this hoarder who put firefighters and his neighbors at risk. No excuses. This situation could have been a real disaster. I'm glad our firefighters could handle it this time(Thanks, PAFD!), but firefighters should not be faced with situations like this. This homeowner (and others like him around the city) should be required to be in compliance with code.

Posted by Relieved Neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

PAFD was on site very quickly after smoke was first observed. I don't know where Tim got his information. I called 911 when we first observed smoke from our house. They were already rolling according to the dispatcher.

Not to pile on...but this residence has been a problem for years. Beat up cars have been parked on Loma Verde for weeks on end...many of them with expired tags. The piles of junk and construction debris and old cars are awful. This guy even had junk piled ON TOP of the house.

It is a miracle that PAFD was able to suppress the fire and prevent the main house and the neighbors house from going up in flames.

All in all PAFD did an amazing professional job.

Now its time for PA Code Enforcement to do their part.

The neighborhood is waiting.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm

There is a similar problem in the 700 block of Clara Drive. Been a problem for over 30 years.

Posted by Easy-going neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Thank you Palo Alto Fire Department!

I have been very pleased to live next to the person who was injured trying to put out the fire to his own home. My heart goes out to him, and his loved ones. From expereince, my neighor is a warm, and geniunely kind person. While it may be true that he likes to store too many things, and offer help those in the community, let the Christmas spirit prevail and offer assistance, not critisim. If there were an earthquake and no police or fire were available, my neighbor would be there knocking on my door to see if we were okay....for that I think him, and don't worry about his hoarding...

Reading some the commentary here is alarming for it does not represent the person I know, the spirit of the season, or the values I treasure.

Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2010 at 9:37 am

The property is a huge fire hazard to the neighborhood, as anyone who lives near it can see. I hope the Code Enforcement people insist that it get cleaned up. It's a relief that no firefighters were injured or other structures damaged in this fire.

Posted by Loma Verde Neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

I'm not sure what planet Easy-Going-Neighbor is from...but that Loma Verde house does not have a "storage" issue. That house is a nightmare.

It has at least 4 unregistered cars stashed around the yard, tons of unused construction debris and boxes of trash. There is even strange stuff stored on the roof.

If you really care for this person, in the spirit of the season, help him clean up the yard. I would be the first to offer assistance in a neighborly clean up.

This residence is a perfect case for creating a "defensible" space around you home. No matter if you live near wild lands or in a dense urban setting, you must establish a perimeter around your home that permits fire and rescue teams to easily access your home to SAVE YOUR LIFE.

The stuff stashed around this person's house is not only a threat to the homeowner, but a danger to the entire neighborhood. (Easy-Going-Neighbor included).

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:47 am

Oh come on Loma Verde Neighbor. What planet are YOU from? You said: "help him clean up the yard". Do you really think this situation exists because you haven't volunteered to help? Really? Do you really think that this resident is just waiting around for someone to help? People like this usually have other underlying problems that cause messes like this to be just a symptom. They probably don't even see the situation as a problem at all. But hey, thanks for asking.

Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

The main point is that the hazard must be cleaned up, however that is accomplished. It's clear that the city's code enforcement people need to follow up with this resident.

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