Common repair method cause for concern

By Alison Squires

Wadena's volunteer firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire inside the stack behind the bathroom wall in a house on First Street NW on Feb. 17. Heat tape is the suspected cause.

Wadena’s volunteer firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire inside the stack behind the bathroom wall in a house on First Street NW on Feb. 17. Heat tape is the suspected cause.

Two fires kept Wadena Volunteer Fire Department busy when a garage was destroyed on Feb. 10 and a house fire caused the evacuation of an elderly couple and their son exactly one week later.

The first fire occurred north of Kuroki at the farm of Bill and Victoria Parlby around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 10. Bill said he was home and saw his security lights turn on. Both his sons were home at the time and when one looked out the window, he saw the garage was on fire.

Bill and sons Rodney and Trevor moved two semis and a half-ton truck because of their proximity to the shop and the fire. He said although a couple of the trucks will need new headlights, he could not save the two restored Lincolns that were inside.

“I had a 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V two-door hardtop that was unlicensed in there, and a 1988 Lincoln Town Car,” Parlby told the News. “I had just put new tires on the ’88 and about $18,000 to $20,000 into it and just finished it about a month ago.”

Damage was extensive and estimated at $300,000, as the building and all contents including shop tools were completely destroyed. Parlby said the incident has really hurt him because of the time he spent working on the vehicles as well as being a financial hit, adding that SGI has been treating him fairly.

He was glad that his sons were home because they just took control and co-ordinated everything, said Bill.

“The Wadena fire department was just super,” he added. “They stayed until 3 a.m.”

On Family Day, Feb. 17, firefighters and Shamrock Ambulance were called to the home of Norman and Iris Sutherland on First Street NW in Wadena at 9:40 a.m. After just getting breakfast on the table, Norman said he smelled paper burning. He made his way to the bathroom, where he could feel heat coming from behind one of the walls, and called 9-1-1.

When Fire Chief Harold Narfason reached dispatch to find out about the call, he was informed that there was wheelchair assistance flagged for that address. He immediately called his business to alert his wife Karol and her sister Keri Helberg to run across the street and assist the couple and their son out of the home. When the fire department arrived a fire was discovered in the attic and quickly extinguished. No damage assessment has been released. Narfason reports that the Sutherlands are resting comfortably in respite at Wadena Hospital.

“Fortunately it happened when it did,” said Narfason, as the outcome could have been worse had it occurred in the middle of the night, especially when mobility was an issue. Narfason also praised the action of Dr. Boktor, who voluntarily stopped at the scene to offer his assistance when he saw emergency vehicles parked on the street.

The culprit in this case is suspected to be heat tape that had been dropped down the stack to prevent freezing.

Despite its “electric blanket” qualities for preventing frozen pipes, and its convenience as a quick fix, Narfason warned against its use because it can be a fire hazard. Installed the wrong way, heat tape contributes to 2,000 fires and 10 deaths annually, according to the American Consumer Product Safety Commission. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that heat-tape-related fires caused $7-million in property damage and sent 60 people to the emergency room in 2007 alone. In half of all cases, the NFPA says, the tape ignited insulation in a crawlspace.

Wadena News

306.338.2133.

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