How to avoid frozen pipes and house fires this winter

Now that the cold temperatures are here to stay, it's important to take preventative action and avoid frozen pipes and fires this winter.

Keep kitchen and bathroom doors open to allow air to circulate around the plumbing, use heat tape around your pipes and let water slowly drip from them to keep them from freezing. If your pipes do freeze, don't use a blowtorch, propane heater or open flame to unfreeze them, as that can easily start a house fire.

"The best thing to do is call a plumber because they'll have to get a plumber out there to take care of it anyway, because anytime you have pipes burst, there's going to be a lot of water damage to your house," said Chief Tony Miller of the Ottumwa Fire Department. "So if you can be ahead of the game, by taking care of that before the cold weather hits, or now that's it has hit, at least have somebody come out and take a look at it."

Chief Miller also recommended that all homeowners get their furnace checked at least once a year and be sure not to overload circuits with space heaters or other devices that can also easily cause fires.

The fire department offers free installation of fire detectors year-round and they especially urge residents to take advantage of this program in the wintertime, when there is extra strain on a home's electrical systems. To contact the fire department about a smoke detector, call 641-683-0666.

For more tips on freezing pipes from the American Red Cross, click here.