(NECN: Jack Thurston, Richmond, Vt.) - Firefighters in Richmond, Vt. are warning homeowners to not use gas torches or open flames to attempt to thaw out frozen pipes. That's what the Richmond Fire Dept. said caused a blaze Tuesday morning that destroyed a home on Summers Street.
Richmond's fire chief told WPTZ-TV that the homeowner was using a small propane heater to thaw his pipes when material nearby caught fire.
The temperatures in the area were about 10 degrees below zero at the time of the fire. Richmond's highway department put down salt and sand to help keep the firefighters from slipping on the ice that was forming from the hoses.
Asst. Chief Mathew Champlin of the Underhill & Jericho Fire Dept., which assisted Richmond, said the bitterly cold temperatures were difficult on both first responders and their equipment.
"It's very, very difficult," Champlin told New England Cable News. "Everything freezes. We've already had to send two trucks back because they're frozen; we can't get any more water off of them. We really try to keep water moving in the hoses so we don't freeze anything up. It doesn't take long."
No one was seriously injured in the fire. The Red Cross chapter serving Vermont and the Upper Valley of New Hampshire said it was prepared to help the family with their emergency needs and provide lodging, food, and clothing as needed. This was the eleventh Red Cross response since Thanksgiving, spokesman Doug Bishop said.
The Richmond Fire Dept. encouraged people to have their heating systems checked if they are experiencing problems. First responders also said in the case of frozen pipes, residents should consider using a hairdryer to thaw them, but not to leave the hairdryer unattended.