DERRY — Battalion Chief Jack Webb said he and others at the Derry Fire Department were 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 in an interview. “It’s just something you don’t do. Don’t ever do it.”
But when firefighters responded to the call about a fire at 5 Mount Pleasant St., they quickly learned that the blaze was ignited by the landlord attempting to thaw frozen pipes using a propane torch.
Clement Laplante, of 9 Windham Road, Derry, had picked the 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 systems 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 Parkland Medical Center.
“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.”
No formal action has been taken against the landlord, as the Derry Code Enforcement and Derry Fire Prevention Bureau continued to investigate the fire.
Upon arrival, crews observed moderate smoke pushing from the front of the house, from the rear apartment and from the eaves, according to Webb.
“The structure was a balloon-framed house with an apartment addition on the rear,” Webb noted in his report. “Crews also ventilated the structure while using air monitoring equipment to ensure that all carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (toxic gases found in smoke) were removed from the structure.”