Thawing frozen water pipes causes Port Colborne house fire

Port Colborne firefighters were on Sugarloaf St. Thursday combating a house fire that was started by someone using a device to heat frozen water pipes. Photo by Joseph Burd

Port Colborne’s Fire and Emergency Services Department responded to a house fire at 108 Sugarloaf St. in Port Colborne in the late morning Thursday Jan. 18/2019.

“The cause of the fire was due to careless use of a heating device to thaw an external frozen pipe,” a press release from the City of Port Colborne said.

Eighteen firefighters were engaged in combating the fire.

“Our firefighters did an amazing job fighting a fire in a very difficult situation, given the smoke conditions, the extensive fire that had spread within the floors and walls of the lower portion of the home, and the cold weather,” said Thomas B. Cartwright, Fire Chief, in the press release.

Damage is estimated in excess of $400,000 to the home. There were no injuries in the fie.

“Port Colborne Fire & Emergency Services does not advise the use of an open flame (i.e. blow torch, lighter) to thaw frozen water pipes, unless done by a professional who knows what safety procedures are required,” the press release said. “Additionally, the use of welding equipment (to heat up pipes) adds additional hazards when attempting to thaw frozen pipes as the heat being radiated through the pipes can cause fires within a building.”

The City of Port Colborne offers the following suggestions to prevent drinking water pipes from freezing:

  • Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around plumbing.
  • Outdoor faucets are the first to freeze. Disconnect, drain, and shut off any outdoor hoses and faucets.
  • Insulate pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, attic and garage, with a pipe sleeve.
  • If your pipes are prone to freezing, consider contacting a plumber for advice on how best to protect your home.
  • Leave a tap open enough for a pencil-thin stream of flowing water, so there is some movement of water in pipes that might be vulnerable to freezing.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

If your pipes are already frozen, consider the following steps to thaw them:

    If your pipes are already frozen, consider the following steps to thaw them:

  • If you have a poorly insulated crawlspace, the frozen pipe may be in this area.
  • Turn on a tap in the lowest point in the house (i.e. the cold water faucet in the basement).
  • Use a blow dryer for one to two hours to warm the suspected frozen pipe. Check the blow dryer regularly to ensure it does not overheat.
  • Place a warm towel or rag around the suspected frozen pipe.
  • Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours.

Property owners in Port Colborne are responsible for frozen water lines from the property line to the building and all internal plumbing.

More information about frozen water service can be found here: http://portcolborne.ca/page/frozen_water_service .

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