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House fire caused by tenant thawing frozen pipes

A tenant thawing frozen pipes 129 Glenwood Drive Round Lake Beach with propane torch caused fire Monday night. The fire

A tenant thawing frozen pipes at 129 Glenwood Drive in Round Lake Beach with a propane torch caused a fire Monday night. The fire went into the walls from the crawl space and firefighters had to tear into the ceiling and walls to get to it. The fire also went into the attic burning the ceiling and roof beams. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 3, 2014 3:30PM

Firefighters fought off the cold and chased a fire through the walls of a home Monday night in Round Lake Beach. The fire was started by the tenant, who accidently set the crawl space on fire trying to thaw frozen water pipes.

Temperatures were around 4 degrees (not counting wind chill) around 7:30 p.m. when the Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District got the call, and when they pulled up to 129 Glenwood Drive, smoke already was showing.

“The tenant had been thawing pipes underneath the house in the crawl space and it burned up the plumbing wall into the attic; the fire was inside the walls,” Fire Chief Paul Maplethorpe said.

“It burned through the roof rafters and the floor joists,” he said, adding that firefighters at first entered the home, but encountered spongy floors because of fire in the crawl space.

“They had to pull out for a while and then they got back in,” he said. Once inside again, they began tearing into the walls to get at the fire. “It took a few hours. It was a little stubborn,” Maplethorpe said.

There were no injuries, but dealing with the cold was a factor.

“It was hard on everyone in the cold,” he said, describing how his wet glove would “freeze to the metal fence instantly” when he was balancing himself. “That’s pretty cold,” he added.

The department usually gets one fire a season from someone trying to thaw pipes. There are a number of alternatives to using a blow torch to thaw pipes, such as electrical wraps or heaters that contractors use when they are called out to those type of situations.

The home, a converted summer home, is uninhabitable.

“The damage is extensive to the entire house,” he said.

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