How frozen water pipes lead to this Henrico house fire

Posted at 7:44 AM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-20 07:44:12-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — With temperatures around 0 degrees Friday, preventing your water pipes from freezing is at the top of many peoples’ minds. However one person’s attempt to thaw out their frozen water pipes lead to a house fire in Henrico County. When Henrico Fire units arrived at the 4100 block of Roundtree Road Thursday afternoon they saw smoke coming from the back of the house. Inside the home, a fire in the kitchen had already been put out.

“The fire started under the house in the crawl space,” Henrico Fire spokesman Captain Daniel Rosenbaum said. “The fire was determined to have been accidental in nature and caused by heat from a plumber’s torch that set the underside of the house on fire. The torch was being used in an attempt to thaw out frozen water pipes in the crawl space. The flames traveled from under the house and started up the side of the house before being put out.”

The fire was minor enough so the family who lived in the home could stay there and no one was hurt.

“Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device,” Rosenbaum said about what not to do if your pipes freeze. “Heat from any of these devices can very easily set materials under a house on fire. Heat can travel along the pipes and set materials inside a wall on fire and smolder for hours before being discovered.”

The Henrico Fire Department offered these prevention measures that may help protect your pipes:


Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.



Place an insulating dome or other covering on outdoor faucets and spigots to reduce the likelihood of water pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.



Allow a slow drip from your faucets to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the release pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture.


If your pipes do freeze, here are five things you should do and one thing you should NOT do:

  • You should keep the faucet open. As the frozen area starts to melt, water will flow and running water will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to frozen area using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer or towels soaked in hot water.
  • Use a portable space heater, kept away from flammable materials, to warm under the house (Never leave heater unattended).
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
  • If you cannot find the frozen area, if the area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • DO NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
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