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Dec-10-2009 18:11printcomments

Frozen Pipe Calls Keep Firefighters Busy

Hillsboro Fire and Rescue offers tips for residents who want to avoid frozen water pipes.

Two Hillsboro firefighters push water from an unheated warehouse flooded by a broken sprinkler pipe.
Two Hillsboro firefighters push water from an unheated warehouse flooded by a broken sprinkler pipe. Courtesy: Storm Smith / Hillsboro Fire

(HILLSBORO, Ore.) - Fire officials in Hillsboro say a flurry of broken water pipes in homes and businesses frozen by the week's surprisingly cold temperatures, prompted citizens to call firefighters for help.

Storm Smith with Hillsboro Fire, says once the temperatures rose near 32-degrees on Tuesday and the broken pipes began thawing, firefighters began responding to calls for assistance.

"The process repeated itself again on Wednesday and Thursday. Starting at noon on Tuesday, there were nine water problem calls in the City of Hillsboro. On Wednesday that number jumped to 21 calls. Firefighters, both career and volunteer, were able to shut off the water and use water vacuums to pick up much of the water."

Smith says the homeowners then had to contact plumbers to arrange for repairs, and notify insurance companies of the damages.

"One call occurred on Thursday at the Rosewood Park Assisted Living Center and resulted from a fire sprinkler pipe in the attic that froze, broke and began leaking," Smith said.

"Water leaked into 12 apartments on the first and second floors impacting 13 residents. Center staff quickly relocated the affected residents to safe areas while firefighters shut off the sprinkler system and used a fleet of water vacuums to remove the bulk of the water that seeped into the apartments."

Smith says the sprinkler pipe in the attic space is normally dry because it is located in an unheated area. Staff summoned their sprinkler system vendor to the scene to repair the pipes and determine why the normally dry pipe had water in it. Damage estimate is still being tallied.

Then shortly after 2:00 p.m., firefighters responded to a warehouse in the 1600 block of Northeast 25th Avenue according to Smith.

"A sprinkler pipe broke above the office of an unheated warehouse. The water damaged office ceilings, walls and floorings. None of a local retailer's inventory stored there was damaged. However, some office equipment and personal items were damaged."

Hillsboro Firefighter Tyrus Wells uses a water
vacuum to remove water in a carpet following a broken
water pipe in an assisted living center.

Firefighters used sump pumps and squeegees to remove several hundred gallons of water from the building's floors. The damage estimate at this point is undetermined.

Hillsboro Fire and Rescue reminds residents that to avoid frozen water pipes in your home:

  • Close off crawl spaces under your home.
  • Remove water hoses from outdoor faucets.
  • Cover outdoor faucets with insulation if they lack interior shut off valves. Drain them if they have an interior shutoff.
  • Indoors, leave cabinet doors open under sinks to allow the room heat to circulate.
  • Leave inside faucets at the end of a plumbing run dripping slightly to relieve pressure if the pipes do freeze.
  • Use an electric hair dryer to thaw a frozen pipe. Never use an open flame device such as a torch.

For more fire and life safety information, visit: or call 503-681-6166.

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Mike December 11, 2009 4:03 am (Pacific time)

We fixed a pipe that burst in some poor old ladies attic. Turns out her husband was a Pearl Harbor survivor so we gave them 50% off. Us plumbers are busy this time of the year...

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