Space heater used to thaw frozen pipes ignites basement stairs at Mexico house

Rumford fire Lt. Keith Bickford, left, carries charred boards from stairs that caught fire late Thursday morning while the owner of 50 Cross St. in Mexico was trying to thaw frozen pipes with a kerosene heater in the basement, Mexico firefighters said.
Terry Karkos
Rumford fire Lt. Keith Bickford, left, carries charred boards from stairs that caught fire late Thursday morning while the owner of 50 Cross St. in Mexico was trying to thaw frozen pipes with a kerosene heater in the basement, Mexico firefighters said.
Posted Jan. 04, 2013, at 6 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 04, 2013, at 8:53 a.m.
Mexico and Rumford firefighters called to a possible structure fire at 50 Cross St. in Mexico late Thursday morning learned that a kerosene heater being used to thaw frozen pipes caught the basement stairs on fire. Firefighters piled the charred remnants outside the basement.
Mexico and Rumford firefighters called to a possible structure fire at 50 Cross St. in Mexico late Thursday morning learned that a kerosene heater being used to thaw frozen pipes caught the basement stairs on fire. Firefighters piled the charred remnants outside the basement.

MEXICO — A kerosene space heater left too close to combustible materials in the basement of a vacant Cross Street house late Thursday morning caused the wooden stairs to catch fire, said Mexico fire Deputy Chief Richard Jones.

Damage was “very minimal,” Jones said. There were no injuries.

At 10:30 a.m., Mexico and Rumford firefighters, and Med-Care Ambulance crewmen responded to a possible structure fire call at 50 Cross St. They found light smoke coming from somewhere in the two-story gray building and investigated.

The temperature outside was 6 degrees.

Homeowner Roger White and another man discovered the fire and tried to extinguish it by throwing snow on it, Jones said. White called 911 for help.

Mexico firefighter Jack Arsenault said he used three fire extinguishers to put the fire out.

Jones said White was trying to thaw frozen pipes in the basement using a kerosene heater and returned to the basement after a while to check on the heater.

“They thought they had it back far enough, but apparently it caught a doormat at the bottom of the stairs on fire, and then burned the stairs,” Jones said.

“It was smoldering,” Arsenault said. “When they opened up the front door is when it ignited a little bit more and it basically burned the stairs going up to the first floor from the basement.”

Firefighters piled the charred wood outside the basement.

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