A firefighter with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District was injured late Friday night working to extinguish a fire in a home in the unincorporated West Selby neighborhood, fire officials said.
The fire was first reported at 11:25 p.m. in a one-story home on Nassau Drive.
Menlo Engine 4 arrived at 11:30 p.m. and the fire captain at the scene reported that heavy black smoke was coming from the roof and eaves of the building.
The fire captain was identified in an earlier version of this article as Rod Brovelli, but Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said Sunday that the information was incorrect and that the district was not releasing the captain's name at this time.
A family of four escaped the home earlier after a family member discovered the fire, according to fire officials.
A crew went inside and found that the fire had spread throughout the attic; firefighters started pulling down the ceiling to extinguish the blaze.
The fire captain and a probationary firefighter went up on the roof to cut openings that would let fire and smoke escape. The holes were intended to keep the fire and smoke from banking down on firefighters inside, fire officials said.
The captain had just finished showing the probationary firefighter how to cut a square hole in the roof when he went to look for a place to cut a second ventilation hole. As he stepped across a ridge of the roof, he felt the area underneath him turn spongy, according to fire officials.
The captain told the probationary firefighter to get off the roof, which then gave way. He fell into the roof up to his armpits, according to fire officials. The probationary firefighter, Carlos Carpenter, then grabbed the captain's shoulder straps and rolled him out of the hole.
The fire captain suffered significant burns to one hand and moderate burns to his other hand, district officials said.
The two firefighters cut one more ventilation hole before leaving the roof.
Fire officials said the injured captain was taken to Stanford Hospital; he was released Saturday morning and will be off duty until he has full use of his hands.
Fire officials estimate the damage to the home at $100,000.
Schapelhouman said in a statement, "Roof ventilation operations are inherently dangerous but necessary. We feel very fortunate that the captain's injuries were not more serious, given what occurred."
Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration gave the Menlo Park fire district authorization to use its drones at night. But Friday night a drone operator was not available, fire officials said.
"It will be interesting in the future, as we get more drone pilots trained up, to see if we can identify, through thermal imaging, if we could have avoided this type of problem through better situational awareness and real-time heat sensors," Schapelhouman said.