Heat tape likely caused trailer blaze, resident says

Last updated: February 1, 2019 - 4:29pm


Smoke pushes out of the roof of a trailer home as firefighters attack the blaze Friday morning on Mountain Road in Fishing Creek Township. (Press Enterprise/Jimmy May)

FISHING CREEK TWP. — Malfunctioning heat tape likely caused a fire that destroyed a trailer and left two people homeless Friday morning, said one of the residents.

Teresa Rankin, 51, and her fiance, Ed Sherwood, 63, weren’t home when the blaze broke out at their 10 Mountain Road home around 11 a.m. Their water pipes had frozen that morning, so Rankin wrapped them in heat tape and left to buy a heater.

They hadn’t had any problems with the plumbing the last couple of days, despite overnight temperatures dipping below zero. It wasn’t until Friday morning that they froze, Rankin said. Since the water tank is kept outside in an insulated wooden box just off the master bedroom, Rankin wrapped the outside pipes in tape and drove to the store to get a heater for the box.

But as she pulled back into the driveway, she saw smoke billowing from the back end of the trailer.

“First thing I did was call 9-1-1, then started shoveling snow on it,” Rankin said.

When she realized the fire was going to spread to the trailer, she ran inside and shut the bedroom door before grabbing a few necessities and racing back out.

Although the trailer is likely a total loss, closing that door saved many of their possessions, said Orangeville Fire Chief Kevin Boyd.

“Very smart to close the bedroom door because that kept the fire in the back half of the trailer,” Boyd said. “There’s going to be a lot of smoke damage, but it didn’t go any farther.”

It also stopped the fire from spreading to a collection of guns and ammunition in another part of the home, which could have created a dangerous situation for firefighters, Boyd said.

“The bullets get hot, the gunpowder gets hot, and then it gets to the point where the gunpowder goes off,” Boyd explained.

“Usually, the bullet doesn’t travel very far, but you can’t take that chance — you’ve got to stay away.”

Firefighters from Orangeville, Benton, and Millville braved temperatures in the mid-teens to battle the blaze, which was quickly extinguished. But heavy damage to the main bedroom and bathroom means the trailer is probably a total loss, Rankin said.

The couple have only lived in the home about a year, said neighbor Bill Henry, who’s lived on Mountain Road for the last 24 years.

He didn’t realize anything was amiss Friday morning until he heard sirens coming up the shared driveway and stepped outside.

“I came around the corner and my jaw dropped,” Henry said. “There was smoke pouring out everywhere.”

Rankin and Sherwood are good people and have been friendly neighbors, even inviting him to a pig roast last summer, he said.

“What can you say?” he asked, shaking his head. “This is terrible.”

The Red Cross was notified and will assist the couple with shelter and necessities, Boyd said.

Julye Wemple can be reached at julye.wemple@pressenterprise.net, or at 570-387-1234, ext. 1323.

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