A three-alarm fire in downtown Burlingame on Wednesday afternoon caused damage to at least 10 businesses on the second floor of a building and displaced two residents.
The fire alarm at 1227-1241 Burlingame Ave. on the corner of Park Road was triggered at 4:50 p.m. Five minutes later, the Central County Fire Department arrived at the scene. Six fire agencies, three trucks and 52 firefighters responded and contained the fire fully by 6:15 p.m., said Central County Fire Marshal Rocque Yballa.
The fire marshal said the building was not fully equipped with a sprinkler system on the second floor, which could have staved off a fire if they had been installed, Yballa said.
Everyone was evacuated safely from the two-story building, which houses five businesses on the first floor and ten businesses on the second floor along with two upper-floor apartments occupied by two residents.
The blaze started at the top of a staircase in a second floor trash room — most likely because of a cigarette or ashtray falling into the garbage, said Yballa — and proceeded through the attic. For a brief time, flames were visible through the roof as hundreds of onlookers observed from closed-off sections of downtown Burlingame.
A layer of concrete between each connected building may have helped curtail the fire, Yballa said. Damage to the five businesses on the first floor could not be immediately assessed.
Bill Patchett, owner of the Treescape business on the second floor of the connected buildings, he said, and his secretary smelled the smoke and located the fire. He used a fire extinguisher to put it out temporarily, but could not locate another one, so he smashed a window and fled as the fire grew.
No injuries were reported. The building owner said he had insurance.
Burlingame Avenue was blocked off from Lorton Avenue to Primrose Road; Park Road was blocked from Howard Avenue, one block to the Burlingame Avenue intersection. Businesses next door to the fire-impacted structure said they had to shut their doors and close for the day.
Yballa said the fire that destroyed Chicken! Chicken! Restaurant downtown on Primrose Road in November 2005 also could have been avoided had the shop had a sprinkler system. A statewide ordinance will require all structures to have sprinkler systems starting Jan. 1.