By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Several safety tips to help citizens safely thaw water pipes and dispose of ashes are being offered in light of some fires reported this week.
Pulaski Fire Chief Bill Webb said two of three fire calls received Tuesday and Wednesday resulted from attempts to thaw frozen pipes and disposal of ashes from a woodstove.
The department responded to 624 Fifth St. in northwest Pulaski just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for a fire in the wall of a house owned by Teresa King. A propane heater being used to thaw frozen water pipes sparked the fire, according to Webb.
The department responded with 22 personnel and two pieces of equipment. Webb noted damage was estimated at $8,000.
The fire chief said open flames should never be used to thaw frozen pipes.
American Red Cross offers the following tips for detecting and thawing frozen water pipes:
•If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include those against exterior walls or where water service enters a 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 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. A portable space heater that doesn’t use an open flame can be used if it is kept away from flammable materials.
•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 cannot 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.
Webb said it also is important to take precautions when disposing of ashes from wood stoves and fireplaces.
Just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, the fire department responded to a report of a small fire outside a home at 200 Green Lea St. that was started by stove ashes that had been discarded outdoors. Ten firefighters and two pieces of equipment were able to control and extinguish the fire in less than an hour.
According to Virginia Department of Forestry, improper disposal of ashes can cause wildland and structural fires because wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite combustible materials for several days. Plus, high winds can uncover hot embers and start a wildfire.
To properly dispose of hot ashes, forestry and fire officials advise to pour the ashes into the metal container and soak them with water. Place a metal lid securely on the container and put the closed container outside your home away from combustible materials. Ashes should be stored in the container for several days.
Once you are absolutely positive the ashes in your container are “cold,” spread them in a garden or a gravel driveway and then prepare your container for the next load.
The forestry department also offers the following tips:
•Teach other family members about the dangers associated with hot ash disposal.
•Do not dispose of ashes in paper, plastic or cardboard containers.
•Do not dump loads of wood ashes into one pile. The pile can retain heat and insulate embers for long periods of time.
•Do not assume the ashes are cold and pour them onto the ground or into a hole. Leaves can blow onto them or the wind can stir up sparks.
•Do not place ashes in a dumpster. Hot ashes could ignite a fire with material already in the dumpster.
•Do not store your metal ash container on your home’s deck, in your garage or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot ashes to nearby flammable items.
Webb also offered more detail on a fire Pulaski responded to just prior to the fire on Fifth Street. He said an electrical wire in a ceiling caused about $12,000 in damage to a home owned by Timothy Gravely at 4876 Roger Loop.
Pulaski responded with 20 personnel and three pieces of equipment. The department was assisted by Dublin Volunteer Fire Department, which brought one piece of equipment and 13 firefighters. REMSI and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office also assisted.
Pulaski Fire Department responded directly to the Fifth Street fire from Roger Loop.