Attempt to thaw frozen pipes nearly burns down northwest Calgary house

Calgarians are being reminded not to use an open flame to thaw frozen pipes after a resident tried that and nearly burned down a northwest home on Tuesday.

Fire crews responded to the home on Bermondsey Way N.W. at 11 a.m., after a 911 caller stated there was a fire in the basement and that one resident might be having trouble getting out of the home safely, the Calgary Fire Department said in an emailed release.

When firefighters arrived, they found a house full of smoke and a fire in the basement.

Two adults got out of the home safely. One man was assessed by EMS for smoke inhalation.

Fire crews quickly put out the fire but the damage to the basement was extensive, as the fire burned through the floor into a room on the home's main level, causing structural concerns for fire crews.

There was also smoke damage throughout the home.

"A fire investigator at the scene has determined that the fire was accidental in nature and was due to the use of an open flame to thaw frozen pipes. Unfortunately, this caused other nearby combustibles to ignite and fire to grow and spread quickly," the fire department said.

Frozen pipes are a concern in Calgary, with the entire province of Alberta under an extreme cold warning — and forecasts calling for a high of –28 C on Tuesday and wind chills that will make it feel like it's colder than –40 C.

Instead of using an open flame, the fire department suggested using a hairdryer to thaw pipes — and leaving the faucet on while you do so.