Quebec firefighters work in frigid conditions, warn safety first during cold snap

A fire broke out at a residential complex in Verdun Thursday after a resident took a blowtorch to a set of pipes in the building.

In 1 case, a fire broke out after a man tried to thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch

Firefighters say that a fire broke out on Rushbrooke Street in Verdun, Thursday. (Radio-Canada)

Firefighters have been working overtime putting out a series of fires in tough conditions as a cold snap continues to grip the province.

In Montreal, firefighters are warning people not to take drastic measures to thaw their frozen pipes after a man started a fire in a residential building in Verdun while using a blowtorch to thaw his pipes.

The pipes were surrounded by combustible material which caught fire and quickly spread to the walls of the six-unit residential complex on Rushbrooke Street, said Martin Guilbault, chief of operations for the Montreal fire department.

Guilbault said that dealing with frozen pipes is not a do-it-yourself project. 

"Call a plumber. These people are used to doing this kind of work. Some people usually don't want to call a professional, so they are going to do it themselves. But they've never done that before. That is where the problem occurs."​

Calling in reinforcements

Earlier this week, 170 firefighters from 17 municipalities assembled on the South Shore Wednesday night into Thursday morning to handle not one, but two different fires.

More than 150 firefighters worked to control two fires in Beauharnois this week, in –25 C weather. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

Firefighters worked in –25 C and struggled to keep their water from freezing as they put out flames at an apartment building in Beauharnois and at the nearby Rio Tinto Alcan plant.

Fire chief Jean-Maurice Marleau said they had to call in reinforcements from surrounding cities and towns so that they could work in rotating shifts and take breaks to get warm.

"We went through hell with the cold that night," said Marleau. "It's one of the worst scenarios we've experienced."

No one was injured during any of the fires.