Space heaters trigger fires; 2 homes saved

Residents cautioned on how they choose to thaw frozen pipes

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

After extinguishing two home fires, firefighters warned people Monday to be careful with space heaters, and frozen pipes kept plumbers busy with emergency calls.

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Capital City Fire and Rescue prevented a duplex and a trailer from burning down Monday morning. Both fires were blamed on improperly used space heaters. No one was reported injured.

The first fire broke out in the garage of a duplex at 4222 Taku Court. It was spotted by a neighbor, Fire Chief Eric Mohrmann ire said. The blaze began when fireworks placed too close to a space heater ignited.

With no one home in the burning structure, firefighters forced their way in through a door. There was light smoke damage in both halves of the duplex. Mohrmann estimated $5,000 in damage, primarily from smoke.

The second fire call came in shortly afterward, when a workman noticed smoke coming from trailer in Switzer Village. Mohrmann said a space heater left unwatched set fire to insulation and wood under the trailer. The trailer's pipes had recently frozen over.

"The owner was using a space heater to thaw out the pipes," Mohrmann said.

The practice can be dangerous, he warned. The best way to thaw frozen pipes is with a hair dryer, Mohrmann said.

Space heaters should have at least two to five feet of clear space around them, depending on the size of the heater.

Keith Burgess, dispatcher at Jack's Plumbing and Heating, said the company had received many calls from homeowners who needed repairs because of the cold weather.

"Ever since the cold snap started we've been getting calls from all over the area. It causes heating equipment to overwork and that causes breakdowns," he said.

Rather than waiting for pipes to freeze, Mohrmann said, it's much better to have them properly insulated beforehand.

• Will Morris may be contacted at william.morris@juneauempire.com.



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