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Chicago Fire Department advises residents on how to prevent, thaw frozen pipes

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Sun-Times file photo

In light of a fire that displaced 15 people on New Year’s Day and was caused by someone using a propane torch to thaw their pipes, the Chicago Fire Department is advising residents on how to prevent and thaw frozen pipes.

The Chicago Fire Department has responded to at least four fires in the last two weeks that were caused by handheld torches being used to thaw pipes, according to a statement from the department. At least two people have been injured in these incidents.

The department also responded to another incident in which a high-wattage lightbulb was left to keep pipes from freezing, but instead caused a fire.

Residents should prevent their pipes from freezing by running a trickle of water from the taps furthest from where the water pipe comes into the building, Fire Commissioner José Santiago said in a statement.

“But in those cases where pipes do freeze, residents should use a hair dryer to thaw pipes or call for professional help,” Santiago said. “Under no circumstances should anyone use a torch or other open flame to thaw frozen pipes.”

Residents should also make sure their smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are tested regularly, according to the fire department.