4 businesses damaged after strip mall fire
MENLO PARK, CA -- A two-alarm fire that started in a Menlo Park commercial building Wednesday night damaged four retail businesses, but the building's old but effective sprinkler system was successful in preventing flames from causing worse damage and even spreading through downtown, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.
The fire was reported at about 5:30 p.m. at Posh Bagel located at 869 Santa Cruz Ave., Schapelhouman said. The bagel shop is in the same structure as three other businesses: Cafe Silan, a used bookstore called the Book Rack and a clothing store called Kicks.
The fire, which was determined to have started in a wood-burning oven used to cook food at Cafe Silan, apparently allowed embers to spread from a chimney flue and into an attic connected to the other businesses.
Fire crews from Woodside Fire Protection District, Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department and Redwood City fire assisted in the response, and the fire was declared under control at about 5:45 p.m.
Much of the resulting damage was actually caused by water from the building's sprinkler system, which fire officials credited with effectively containing the flames until firefighters fully put it out, Schapelhouman said.
"The sprinkler system did exactly what it was supposed to do," he said.
The building's age caused some complications for firefighters, as the sprinkler's infrastructure and the building's electrical wiring were operated by outdated technology.
The valve to shut off the sprinklers was not discernible by firefighters, so the sprinklers ran until the state Department of Water Resources was called in to shut off the entire water supply.
Firefighters requested PG&E crews to cut electricity to the entire city block when questions arose regarding the burned building's wiring and the danger of its exposure to large amounts of water.
No one was injured during the emergency.
Fire damage to the structure was estimated at $100,000, Schapelhouman said.
Damage to contents will be assessed by each individual business owner and determined by the susceptibility of their inventories to smoke, heat and a large amount of water.
City leaders, business owners and fire officials are scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. this morning to assess the impact of the fire and determine how best to recover.
Fire investigators will be looking more closely at the restaurant chimney flue and what caused it to spark and mechanically fail.
menlo park, fire, peninsula news
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