Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Fire destroys trailer in Utopia Park

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jan 04, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo The trailer at 18B in Utopia Park suffered a major fire Tuesday afternoon. It is seen here from the east. The occupant, Art Anderson, was able to escape unscathed.

A trailer in Utopia Park caught fire Tuesday and burned for about two hours before firefighters were able to extinguish it.

The Fairfield Fire Department learned there was fire at 12:41 p.m. at trailer 18B, on the south side of the trailer park. Firefighters arrived at the scene at 12:51 p.m., and had the fire under control by 2:55 p.m. Seventeen firefighters helped put out the blaze.

The trailer’s occupant, Art Anderson, was home at the time of the fire and was able to escape without injury. Fire chief Scott Vaughan said the fire started when a propane heater being used to thaw frozen pipes ignited material under the trailer. Vaughan said thawing pipes with propane heaters is a common practice. He said the propane heater the Utopia Park maintenance crew was using might have malfunctioned. The trailer was a total loss. The exterior walls on the northern third of the building are gone.

Since the fire began underneath the trailer, firefighters tore away the metal skirt that surrounds the bottom of the trailer to attack the fire more directly. One firefighter received a cut on the face while doing this, and had to be taken to the hospital. The firefighter was later released.

Anderson left his house immediately upon noticing smoke, and called the fire department from another residence. He told firefighters that he left his cell phone in the trailer, and that it was probably destroyed.

“You don’t know the value of a cell phone until you don’t have it anymore,” Vaughan said.

After the blaze was extinguished, firefighters picked through the debris, seeing what could be salvaged. They found Anderson’s cell phone. Even though the firefighters had sprayed water on the trailer for two hours, the cell phone somehow survived.

“We pressed the power button and it started right up,” Vaughan said.

Anderson declined the food and clothing vouchers offered by the Red Cross. He told Vaughan he has family in Iowa City he can stay with.

Vaughan said the fire at Utopia Park was not the only instance of frozen pipes causing a problem. That same day, firefighters responded to an automatic alarm at Performance Pipe’s former location at 1806 West Stone Ave. One of the sprinkler heads had frozen, causing it to break and leak. Firefighters had to disable the sprinkler system and drain its pipes.

For residents who live in homes with a history of frozen pipes, Vaughan said there are a few ways to solve the problem. One is to wrap the pipe in an electric heating cable that keeps it warm. Another is to leave faucets dripping a tiny amount. The small flow of water is enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

The following is information from the Red Cross about why pipes freeze and tips on how to prevent them from freezing.

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Why pipe freezing is a problem

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.


Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

• Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.

• Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.

• Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.


How to protect pipes from freezing

• Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

• Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.

• Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.

• Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.

• Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.

• Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.


How to prevent frozen pipes

• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

• When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.

• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.


How to thaw frozen pipes

• If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

• Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

• Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.

• Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

• Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

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