Thawing Frozen Pipes Leads To Two Kent County House Fires - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Thawing Frozen Pipes Leads To Two Kent County House Fires


Magnolia, Del. - Two fires break out in two days in two manufactured homes in Kent County.

Investigators say in both incidents, the homeowners used a heating device to keep their pipes from freezing during bitterly cold temperatures.
Once incident happened around 10:50 a.m. Tuesday along Boyd Drive in the London Village Development in Magnolia.

Ruth Cathel says she can't believe what happened to her son's home.

She says the home went up in flames after he tried to use a heat gun, almost like a high-powered hair dryer, to thaw frozen water pipes underneath the home.

"I cannot believe how it just swept through the inside and destroyed it that fast. Just looking at, I'm just thankful they made it out," said Cathel.  

Investigators say the homeowner ignited combustibles under the home. Firefighters with the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company responded to the scene and found heavy fire inside and underneath the home.
"My son was burned. His hands were burned bad. When he saw that he couldn't get the fire out, he came out and got them out," said Cathel.

Cathel says her son rescued his wife and their three young children, a 7-year old girl and two 8-year old boys, before the home was engulfed in flames.

Cathel says this isn't the first time her son used a heat gun.

"It worked last winter, no problems, but I guess this time it was just an accident," said Cathel.

According to Magnolia Fire Company assistant chief Charles Dougherty, the homeowner followed recommended procedure of having his plumbing drip to help prevent pipes from freezing.

Dougherty says one of the best things homeowners can do is use heat tape. Heat tape can be purchased at home improvement stores to help prevent pipes from freezing.

You can apply the heat tape to your pipes by wrapping it around the pipe or by running it in a straight line along the pipe. Then tape it into place with electrical tape. Next, you'll want to cover the tape with foam insulation. Many types of heat tape come with a thermostat attached to the cord. When the temperatures drops to a certain degree, the heat tape will begin regulating heat to the pipes.

Many firefighters in Kent County say they've responded to dozens of calls for busted frozen pipes at homes and businesses during the recent cold snap.

Emergency workers at the Camden-Wyoming Volunteer company say in just the last two day, firefighters responded to 16 weather-related calls.
Firefighters say some homeowners have been using space heaters, kerosene heaters and heat lamps to help thaw their pipes.

On Monday, firefighters with the Cheswold Fire Company responded to a mobile home fire around 9:15 p.m. in the 100 block of Stardust Drive, west of Dover. According to investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office, the fire was caused by a kerosene fueled heater igniting combustibles under the home. The heater was placed under the home to protect the pipes from freezing.

Cathel says more than 20 years of history inside of a mobile home she once shared with her late husband is now gone.  

"My son had a picture of his father I was hoping to save and he went in there but we couldn't save it because it was destroyed," said Cathel.

Cathel says due to the age of the mobile home, it could no longer be insured.

"It's going to run us close to $500 or $1,000 to get this trailer out of her. Then, we have to try to find something used for him, his wife and his children," said Cathel.

The American Red Cross is assisting the family with a safe place to stay, food and clothing.

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