Firefighters warn Northlanders about dangers of DIY frozen pipe thawing

By KBJR News 1

January 8, 2014 Updated Jan 8, 2014 at 9:34 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Firefighters have been called back several times Tuesday to a fire that destroyed a home in Saginaw Monday night.

Smoldering embers are to blame for the continual re–igniting of the house fire. But in large, it has been a lot easier to knock down the rekindled blaze than it was Monday.

Because there are no fire hydrants in the rural area, firefighters had to break a hole in the ice of the nearby St. Louis River and fill a tanker truck several times.

Authorities say the fire was started by a family member attempting to thaw frozen pipes.

According to Superior Fire Department Battalion Chief Vern Johnson, frozen pipes are a frustrating reality in the Northland, but panicking and rushing to thaw them with excessive heat can be disastrous.

Chief Johnson advises avoiding using propane blowtorches, heat guns, or anything with more strength than a hand–held hairdryer to thaw pipes.

"The key is to be patient and not panic," said Johnson. "It's much easier and less expensive to replace some broken pipes later and find another place to stay, than to lose your home and your property. Just slow down, it's going to work out," he added.

Chief Johnson says placing a smaller heater near frozen pipes, avoiding contact, is another slower, but surer, method to thaw house pipes,

As with many situations, Chief Johnson says the best possible option, with the least margin for error, is hiring a certified professional to deal with the problem.

Billy Wagness