It was the compost that set a Willow Road house in Menlo Park on fire March 6, displacing a family of four for at least a year, investigators concluded.
The fire started in a compost pile lying next to the house and near an attic vent, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said on Wednesday (May 9).
A recent tree trimming cleared the way for more sunlight to hit the pile, accelerating decomposition and creating enough heat to start a blaze, according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. The fire entered the house through the vent and possibly a side wall air-conditioning unit.
The fire ruined portions of the home at 52 Willow Road, which had been remodeled six months earlier. No one was hurt, but a family of four, along with two visiting grandparents, are living elsewhere for an indefinite time until repair of the approximately $310,000 in damages wraps up.
Neighbors living next door were temporarily forced out of their own home thanks to smoke damage, the district said. While firefighters focused on protecting the neighbor's home, which has a "highly flammable" wood-shingled roof, open windows let smoke stream inside, the district reported.
The morning of the fire, neighbors reported hearing a "boom" shortly before 11 a.m. and seeing flames leap from a front corner of the home. Firefighters arrived on the scene about two minutes after the 911 call.