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Independence Man Using Blow Torch to Warm Pipes Starts Fire

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INDEPENDENCE, Iowa - Independence fire officials said a tenant using a propane torch to thaw water pipes did considerable fire damage to a home on the south side.

The fire began just before 10:30 p.m. Thursday at 500 3rd Ave SE. Independence Fire Chief Doug Cook said Tristin Beltz was using a torch in a part of the one-time duplex that was undergoing some remodeling. Chief Cook said he turned off the torch and went to see if the water was flowing again. When he returned, he saw signs of a fire inside the walls. That's when Beltz called for help

Crews said Beltz, his wife and three children along with several pets got out safely. The home is owned by Beltz's mother-in-law.The chief said although the home was a duplex at one time, it is now a large home for a single family.

Damage in the portion undergoing remodeling was very extensive. The chief estimated damage at $10,000 to $15,000 in the other portion of the home, where the family was currently living.

The chief said using an open flame to thaw a water pipe is very risky and not recommended. Although using a flame to thaw pipes is dangerous, fire officials say an open flame is not a major cause of fires in cold weather. Problems with small space heaters or an electrical fault from an overloaded circuit is a more common cause of fire in the winter.

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