Squirrel believed to have started Menlo Park house fire

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- An unlikely source is to blame for an early morning fire in Menlo Park. The damage could have been a lot worse had it not been for someone familiar with firefighting walking by.

Menlo Park Firefighters say an early morning fire Christmas Eve is unlike any they'd seen before.

"First time in 20 years I've come across a squirrel fire," said Fire Captain John Wurdinger, who was acting Battalion Chief Christmas Eve.

A squirrel chewed through the neutral line to a house on San Mateo Drive energizing the entire home. The surge of electricity grounded at a doorbell which is where the smoldering fire began.

Just after 6am, Menlo Park Fire District's retired assistant chief was walking his dog and noticed the fire.

"All of a sudden someone was frantically ringing the doorbell," said Emily Allen, who was visiting across the street.

Allen say the man told her to call 911.

"If he hadn't been walking his dog or he hadn't been someone who notices fire it could have been very, very bad," said Allen.

"Good stop, good save," said Wurdinger.
PG&E determined it was a squirrel that caused the fire, and the fire marshal agreed.

In August of 2016, a squirrel bit into a power line which then exploded a transformer knocking out power to downtown Menlo Park.

"It is a problem around here I'm not sure how to solve it," said neighbor Laurie Chiang.

The fire got into the attic. Firefighters say the damage inside the home is minimal, about 5-thousand dollars, but could be more costly once an electrician examines the damage.

"It was just bad luck on Christmas eve," said Wurdinger.

Firefighters returned to the home a second time late Christmas Eve morning to put out a hot spot.

No one was inside at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.