Jul 30, 2014
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Blowtorch Caused Fire That Displaced 7, Says Chief

Somerville's fire chief says residents should never use blowtorches to thaw frozen pipes.

Blowtorch Caused Fire That Displaced 7, Says Chief
Update, 4:55 p.m., Thursday:

A blowtorch, used to thaw a frozen pipe, caused Thursday morning's fire in East Somerville, according to Somerville Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher, who called the practice, "very very dangerous."

The fire displaced at least seven people and caused more than $100,000 in damage, according to an email from the Somerville Fire Department.

The American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, which was on the scene outside 81 Mt. Vernon St. after the fire, said it was assisting as many as eight people displaced by the fire.

"The home will be uninhabitable for some time," the fire department's email said.

Kelleher said state and Somerville fire investigators determined the cause of the fire was that someone was trying to thaw a pipe with a blowtorch. A spark from the blowtorch may have landed inside the walls of the two-and-a-half story home, he said.

The resulting fire "burned right through a side wall" and spread upward, the fire chief said.

Kelleher stressed that people should not thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch.

He said people should review the "Keep Warm, Keep Safe" winter tips from the state's department of fire services.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency says this about preventing and dealing with frozen pipes:

  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, starting where they are most exposed to the cold. A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.


Posted Jan. 23, 2014, 11:53 a.m.

A Thursday morning fire at 81 Mt. Vernon St. in East Somerville displaced seven residents, according to Deputy Chief Patrick Sullivan of the Somerville Fire Department.

Firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire at about 10 a.m., Sullivan said.

"There was some pretty good fire showing," he said.

Firefighters battled the blaze in frigid weather, with temperatures in the teens.

Sullivan said the fire did not appear suspicions "at this time," but city and state fire investigators were on the scene to determine the cause.

The American Red Cross was on the scene Thursday morning to assist the displaced residents. 

No one was injured in the fire, Sullivan said.

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