Almanac

News - December 21, 2011

French-fry fire damages Menlo Park home

by Sandy Brundage

Cooking French fries in an open pan led to a one-alarm fire Dec. 13 at a Menlo Park home near Menlo-Atherton High School.

At about 5:30 a.m., crews responded to a report of fire at 390 Ringwood Ave., where arriving firefighters found flames burning through several spots on the roof, Menlo Park Division Chief Frank Fraone said.

"The attic was on fire, from one end of the home to the other," he said."

Neighbor Don Wallace said the sirens woke him from a deep sleep. "You're lying in bed expecting them to go on by, but they came to a stop very near our house and I thought I should get up and see what it is."

He spotted a fleet of emergency vehicles, including a police car that blocked off traffic from Middlefield Road.

By the time the homeowner realized the building was on fire, the blaze had already disabled the phone lines and electricity, Chief Fraone said. The resident, who had been the only person inside, escaped safely and used a passerby's cell phone to report the fire.

Firefighters worked for about 20 minutes to control the fire. No one was injured. "Because of the amount of fire, it was difficult to extinguish," Chief Fraone said.

Mr. Wallace rode a bike down the street on Tuesday afternoon to see what shape the house was in. He said the structure looked OK, but that portions near the garage were boarded up as maintenance workers cleaned up after the fire.

Fire Marshal Geoffrey Aus said investigators determined the cooking fire was accidental.

Investigators believe the blaze was sparked by an earlier grease fire that may have gotten into the vent above the stove.

Chief Fraone reminded homeowners to clean house before the holidays are in full swing.

"It's that time of year to have your chimneys cleaned and your vent pipes cleaned," he said. "The buildup of creosote in the fireplace, the buildup of grease in the stove vent and the buildup of lint in the dryer vent all need to be cleaned out."

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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