Almanac

Community - September 28, 2011

Fire consumes home in Portola Valley

by Dave Boyce

A two-alarm fire completely destroyed a home at 35 Valencia Court in Portola Valley on Friday evening, Sept. 23, Chief Dan Ghiorso of the Woodside Fire Protection District said Monday.

The homeowners and residents are Ross and Nancy Bardwell, Mr. Bardwell confirmed in a brief phone conversation. There were no injuries.

Fire Marshal Denise Enea said she is looking at the garbage enclosure or something near the garage as the place of the fire's origin. The two vehicles in the garage were destroyed.

The loss of the 3,000-square-foot home and all of its contents may total as much as $1.5 million, Ms. Enea said. "They ran out of the house with their lives," she added.

One or more explosions in the garage were reported; they may have been caused by cans of paint, but probably not gasoline in the vehicles, Chief Ghiorso said.

A 911 call came at about 8:40 p.m. The incident drew around 10 firefighting vehicles (each typically staffed with three firefighters), plus four battalion chiefs to direct the crews, the chief said. In addition to local firefighters, crews came from Menlo Park, Redwood City and San Mateo County.

By the time crews arrived, the house was fully engulfed by fire, so firefighters "went defensive" to prevent injuries to the crew and fought the blaze from outside the house, Chief Ghiorso said. "In about half an hour, they had a real good knockdown on it," he added.

The structure that remained standing was so weakened by the conflagration that investigators had to do their initial work from outside the house, Chief Ghiorso said.

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