Authorities in Milton-Freewater say fire crews responded to a pair of residential incidents, both directly the result of people trying to thaw frozen pipes with blowtorches.

According to the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, the two fires caused $1,500 and $3,000 in damages over the weekend. One burned a deck, the other the side of the home.  In both cases, propane heaters were being used. Like a torch, they emit a flame (although in the heaters it's more protected), and the heat led to combustion of the home materials.

Officials also say torches have caused similar fires in the past, in many communities. The best way to prevent freezing pipes is to leave even the slightest trickle of water running, this will prevent it from freezing.  Also wrapping the water pipes in heat tape helps. Most heat tape designed for pipes, will automatically 'heat up' by themselves if the temperatures gets below 39 or 38 degrees, providing a mild heat source to prevent freezing.

If you are going to thaw pipes, using a hair dryer or other mild heat source is best. It will take longer, but won't set the house on fire.

The only time a torch or propane heater should be used is by a professional builder or plumber who knows what they're doing, say fire officials.

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