Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 28, 2014

Don’t do it

Using open flame to thaw frozen pipes is a bad idea

For the third time in a matter of weeks, a fire in our region has been caused by someone trying to thaw out a pipe.

The latest incident occurred Sunday, when a mobile home in the Grahamtown section of Frostburg was damaged when the resident attempted to thaw frozen pipes by using a blow-torch style instrument. Damage was confined to the floor and some furniture.

Last week, a torpedo heater caught fire to an outside wall of a home with frozen pipes in Keyser, W.Va. Although no one was injured, damage was estimated at $15,000.

The most serious of the trio of fires was in Piedmont, W.Va. on Jan. 9, when three buildings were destroyed after an open flame being used to thaw copper pipes caused a fire. Thirteen residents — six adults and seven children — were left homeless.

Fire safety professionals advise to never use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.

There are safe ways to deal with frozen pipes:

 • When the weather is very cold outside, let the water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.

• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees.

The winter of 2013-14 is shaping up to be one of the coldest in recent years. More frozen pipes are bound to occur. Thawing them with an open flame should never be an option.

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