A private contractor who has thawed frozen pipes in hundreds of Winnipeg homes and businesses says the city is forcing him to stop.

Donald Connors, co-owner of Shields Plumbing and Heating, and his crew have restored water service for almost 300 properties using electric thawing machines.

In order to do that, Connors said he must gain access to city water-line valves. But he said the city sent him a cease and desist order on Monday, saying he doesn't have the authority to access those valves.

"It leaves me with nine guys with nine machines sitting on properties right now that are thawing water lines," he told CBC News.

"I had to tell all of them to pack up their tools and equipment and head home because there's nothing more I can do."

A city spokesperson said contractors need to call 311 and arrange for city staff to gain access to the valves on city water lines.

That rule is in place to protect the city's water system, the spokesperson said.

Connors said he has tried that, but no one from the city shows up.

"Really makes it hard for me to help out residents of Winnipeg when the city just feels like, instead of helping the situation, wants to throw out fines and notices saying 'stop,'" he said.

"I've got residents that don't want to hear 'stop.' They want to hear that every resource has been tried."