Atherton home fire caused by fireplace ashes, district says

Damage estimated at $55,000

Menlo Park Fire Protection District officials say that a fire at a home on Selby Lane in Atherton early Thursday morning, Jan. 5, appears to have been caused by a cardboard box of fireplace ashes placed on a patio table next to the house days earlier.

Firefighters quickly put out the fire involving a garage and deck, but it spread to the exterior of the two-story home caused an estimated $50,000 in structural damage and $5,000 in damage to property.

"It also isn't the first time we've seen this type of incident," Chief Harold Schapelhouman said. Fireplace ash should be removed periodically, placed in a metal can and soaked in water, he said.

"The good news is the fire was discovered early, damage is minimal and no one in the home was injured," he said.

The homeowners reported the fire to county dispatchers at 2:26 a.m. and Menlo Park Fire Protection District firefighters arrived by 2:32 a.m. Chief Schapelhouman said.

All the residents had evacuated by the time firefighters arrived, he said.

The fire was "knocked down" by 2:42 a.m., the chief said, but it had charred the exterior of the residential structure up to the second story eve line, so firefighters checked to make sure it hadn't gotten into the home's attic and walls.

The district responded with five engines, a ladder truck and two battalion chiefs, with 21 total responders.

"It appears that the homeowner found the fire just in time and the quick response of the firefighters and knock down of the fire kept this from being a much worse situation," Chief Schapelhouman said.

"We are thankful that no one in the home was injured," Battalion Chief Ben Marra said.

The chief said the last unit left the scene at 5:02 a.m.


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