no, i did not burn down the castle.

No, this wasn’t me.  It was close, though…just a few miles up the road in West Leb.

I’m pretty certain the guy tried to melt the frozen pipes with a propane torch.  After setting fire to various things (intentionally and safely) last weekend, I can say that tool is definitely the worst possible choice for any sort of heat application indoors, no matter how cold the garage or basement.  The flame is nearly invisible and very hot (on the order of 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit/1,900 degrees Celsius).  Using that puppy indoors, especially in a wooden structure, is just asking for a major fire insurance claim.*

Yesterday, it got so cold (-25F/-30some Celsius) that the well pump in our garage and its adjoining tank froze up.  The plumber came out and brought his industrial-grade kerosene heater to warm up the corner of the garage, and 30 minutes later we had water again.  Thankfully, that sort of temperature comes around rarely.  It was as cold as I can remember it since we moved here three years ago.  All three heating systems in the house (propane, wood, and pellet stoves) were working to keep the temperature in the house above 60 degrees.  We usually have only the pellet stove running, with the wood stove in use on the really cold days, and the (most expensive to refuel) propane system being the backup for the arctic spells.  Now the pipes and well pump casing are wrapped in heating tape, to avoid future H2O solidification.

Yeah, it’s cold as balls on occasion up here, but you know what?  We don’t need an A/C in the summer, and the autumn is the payoff for the polar days and all the snow-shoveling.

*UPDATE:  Just got the local fish wrapper, which had some details on the blaze.  It was an 11-unit apartment building, 110 years old.  The landlord did indeed use a blowtorch to thaw pipes. Nobody hurt, but half a dozen pets missing and presumed dead.  The building was worth $350,000, and it was not insured against fire.


17 thoughts on “no, i did not burn down the castle.

  1. DaddyBear says:

    Now I’m really homesick for my youth in Western Crygenica. Nothing says I love you like sharing a blanket when it’s -40 out. Glad you were able to get the water pipes unfrozen before they swelled up and burst.

  2. Mopar says:

    Counting the months until we can move up there!

  3. Yeah, that whole section of Rt 4 was closed most of the day, up and down the hill. Because what do you need most on the coldest day of the year? Thousands of gallons of water being sprayed on the side of a steep hill near an elementary school!

  4. Steve says:

    Sorry chief,

    You lucked out since you got here. We typically get 2-3 weeks a year of this starting between Christmas and the end of January. Some years we get the bonus points of a few days with high temps below zero. Having a yard full of free heating fuel does take the bite out though.

  5. Justthisguy says:

    On that fire, and the dead pets: I think more highly of my kitty than I do of most of what passes for human around here (it’s Florida, the bar is set very low) . Grab that landlord and git a rope, if not for killing kitties and doggies, but for being so damned-ass-stupid that he burned down his own property!

  6. Justthisguy says:

    Oh, nobody else has said it yet, so I will do so:

    “The Stupid! It burns!”

  7. Larry says:

    I look at the pictures and I think…y’know, Key West is nice this time of year…

  8. Hmm…methinks there’s a bankruptcy in the landlord’s future.

  9. I cannot imagine a situation where I have something worth $350K (I could stop this sentence right here) and not have it insured against fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, Act of God, writ from Congress, apocalypse, zombies, hippies, or anything that may fall from the sky or space.

    Some folks learn the hard way and never make the mistake again. Others do the same thing, only because they are so financially ruined they’re never again given the opportunity to try.


    • Tam says:

      Did he have something worth $350k, or did the bank have something worth $350k and they were renting it to him?

      • My understanding is that this gentleman (*cough*) owns (through a holding company) a number of properties in this and the surrounding towns, all in similar condition. I hesitate to use an ugly word like “slumlord” but I admit that it comes to mind.

      • Al Terego says:

        Unlikely. Banks require their collateral to be insured, and have the contractual right to obtain (high-priced and covering only the bank’s investment) coverage for you if they are informed that yours has lapsed. So if the building was uninsured, it was probably free and clear, and thus a total loss for the owner.

        He might not be too bright, but he’s a big loser here. And at least he was trying to take care of his tenants needs. Based on what I’ve seen, I have respect and empathy for him, as well as that building’s residents.


  10. Stan says:

    Does fire insurance usually cover owner idiocy though? One would think that it wouldn’t.

  11. Me not you says:

    Hey, landlord – Whoopsie!

  12. Ross says:

    Y’know, my last house (which had been owned, before me, by an IDIOT who thought he knew something of construction) had the water pipes for the shower routed through the drop ceiling in the bathroom (which wasn’t even on the same slab as the rest of the house!)… which lead to it freezing up when it got below 10 degrees out. I don’t recall EVER being tempted to take a propane torch to it. I found that a 1500 watt hair dryer did the job of thawing the pipe very nicely.

  13. I drove by there this morning — turns out, I’ve actually been in the building that burned down. This was about eight years ago. It wasn’t too bad inside as I remember (though I seem to recall that the person I was visiting was kind of a neat freak), but there were a lot of apartments crammed into one multi-story dwelling. That fire could have been a LOT worse.

  14. Ed Allen says:

    Reminds me how my grandfather would load up the gas powered arc welder in his pickup and haul it down to the trailer park to thaw pipes for people. Clamp a wire on a pipe on one end and then go trailer to trailer with the other.

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