Frozen pipes? Don’t use a blowtorch

Global Okanagan

It’s still not officially winter but a deep freeze has taken hold of the Okanagan. Temperatures are well below zero and it’s expected to stay that way for at least a couple more days.

It’s kept plumbers around the region busy as many homeowners wake up to frozen or burst pipes.

“When we see temperature drop to -20 with windchill factor you’re guaranteed the phones going to ring,” said Ed Zurrin of E-Z Plumbing.

The cold weather and poor insulation for piping is a bad combination but the solution is always pretty simple.

“I’m going to pour hot water on that spot and I bet you any money that it’s frozen,” said Zurrin as he poured a kettle of hotwater over a frozen pipe at a Winfield mobile home park. “There it goes, water just took off.”

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But every year, there are countless examples of people risking their lives and their homes using blowtorches to thaw their pipes.

At least one fire so far this week in the Okanagan was caused by a blowtorch.  The owner of a trailer on the Okanagan Indian Reserve fortunate it was only a minor blaze.

In January, a homeowner in Lockport, New York took a propane torch to his frozen pipes. His home was destroyed in a fire.

“Sometimes it’s a lack of judgement, sometimes that’s all tools they have,” said Captain Rob Cucheran of the Vernon Fire department. “There are people you can call to help but in the end everyone makes their own decisions.”

Officials also warn against using space heaters to thaw your pipes as those have been known to start fires. Experts say the best course of action is always hot water, if that doesn’t work try using hot damp towels. As a last resort use a blow dryer but avoid using a blowtorch at all costs.

“It’s a fire hazard. Never ever, never ever, never never, did I say never? Use a torch,” said Zurrin.