A home on the 1300 block of Madera Avenue in Menlo Park caught fire when gases from bug bombs were ignited by a water heater pilot light in the garage, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said Tuesday.
Firefighters arrived on the scene at 12:01 p.m. on July 28, four minutes after a neighbor had spotted smoke coming from the single-story home and called 911.
The crew, lead by Captain Tony Eggimann, contained the blaze by 12:10 p.m. and inspected the smoke-filled house, finding numerous bug fogging canisters throughout.
Residents weren't home when the fire started, Schapelhouman said. Damage costs are estimated at $175,000 in structural damage and an additional $30,000 in property loss.
Shortly after the fire was extinguished, Fire Marshal Jon Johnston determined that the cause of the fire was accidental. A hot water heater pilot flame appeared to be the ignition source for the activated bug fogging canisters, which the department says were clearly marked as “highly flammable."
Schapelhouman said that people often misuse such bug fogging products.
“This isn’t the first time we have had a fire caused by one of these bug bombs,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve even had people who didn’t read the instructions and stayed inside their homes while the fogging occurred, only to complain of respiratory difficulties and chest pain.”
While Schapelhouman couldn't say which brand of bug fogging product ignited the home, several widely available insect foggers warn users to turn off all flames and pilot lights before use, including Raid, Hot Shot, Spectracide and Black Flag.
Similar precautions are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency. A cartoon safety precaution video posted to YouTube by the EPA in 2012 warns people of activating bug foggers near open flames — illustrated by several frames in the video which read "Boom."