NEOGA -- Dangerous methods of thawing out frozen water pipes has led to a few fires within the past week.

Most recently, a fire engulfed a house at 10:58 a.m. Tuesday at 981 Chestnut Ave.

The investigation into the cause of the fire was still ongoing as of Tuesday afternoon, however, owners of the home indicated to firefighters that they were using a space heater to warm up the pipes underneath the residence, said Bill Albin, Neoga Fire Protection District Chief.

Albin said initial investigations into the cause of the blaze suggests the space heater started the fire underneath the house.

This is now the third and more destructive local fire incident caused by an attempt to thaw out frozen pipes this season.

The blaze engulfed most of the home doing extensive damage to the second floor. Two dogs were in the home at the time. One dog was rescued but later died, and the other was not found as of Tuesday afternoon, Albin said.

The two other recent pipe thaw related fires, both in Charleston, were less harmful but still damaging.

Monday, an apartment owner attempted to warm up pipes in the crawlspace of the apartment at 1497 Woodlawn Drive with a blowtorch, and in the process of doing so, caught a portion of the floor of the apartment bathroom on fire, said Steve Bennett, Charleston Fire Department Chief.

Bennett said the fire left a hole the size of the basketball in the bathroom before it was predominantly put out by the owner.

And several days before, firefighters responded to a structure fire call Dec. 27 at 1012 Second St where a resident also attempted to thaw their pipes with a blow torch. This incident also led to minimal fire damage. Some fire damage was found among some isolation in the crawlspace, as previously reported.

Bennett said the fire department usually receives calls about these fires during the really cold events of the season like the below freezing weather that has settled in the area recently.

He said people simply need to be more careful when attempting to warm up the pipes and to make sure there are no combustible materials around where the pipe is getting heated.

According to the American Red Cross, residents should be using an electric heating pad, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater that is kept away from flammable materials or towels soaked in hot water to thaw the frozen pipes.

The Red Cross also reported that the use of a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device are not appropriate alternatives to warming up the pipes.

The Red Cross also stated that simply keeping the thermostat up opening cabinets and closing garage doors can help prevent freezing pipes, which might be more prevalent this season. As previously reported, temperatures are expected to be lower than the 30-year average.

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