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January 6, 2014

Landlord using blow torch to thaw water pipes starts house fire

DERRY, N.H. — Jack Webb, battalion chief of the fire department in this New Hampshire community near the Massachusetts border, said he and his fellow firefighters watching a television program Saturday morning that warned viewers about the danger of using blow torches to thaw frozen water pipes.

“We were actually joking about it before the call came in,” Webb said. “It's just something you don't do. Don't ever do it.”

But when firefighters responded to the call about a fire at a multi-family home, they quickly learned that the blaze was caused by someone doing exactly that.

Investigators said Clement Laplante had picked the dangerously wrong way to get the water running in the two-family, century-old home — and it's going to cost him, according to Webb, who estimated damage to the building at about $20,000.

Fire crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire after knocking down several exterior and interior walls to keep it from spreading. A team from the American Red Cross helped relocate the five adults who were displaced. With the piping and electrical system damaged, Webb said, the building is uninhabitable until repairs are made.

Emergency crews treated a woman with a history of respiratory problems and transported her to a local hospital.

“We also found numerous electrical and fire code violations as well,” Webb said.

“The most serious fire code violations we found were no operating smoke and no operating carbon monoxide detectors in either of the two rental units,” he said.

Details for this story were reported by The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass.

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