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‘Big thaw’ brings high volume of service calls to C.O. plumbers, roofers; Bend Fire sees dozens of sprinkler issues

(Update: Adding video, comments from local roofers, plumbers, Bend Fire)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After an arctic blast made its way through much of Oregon last weekend, and now with a major warmup, several roofing and plumbing businesses on the High Desert are reporting a surge in calls for service -- and so is Bend Fire & Rescue, due to issues with sprinkler systems.

Carlos Simpson, the owner of Deschutes Roofing & Insulation, told us Wednesday "So the main three calls that we get are for leaks, ice dams and snow removal."

With the major thaw/warmup underway, local roofing and plumbing businesses report a surge in calls for service.

For many, it's their busiest time of the year.

"Turn the temperature of your house down a bit," Nicholas Greenlee, the owner of Greenlee Roofing urged. "A lot of people think, 'Turn that house heat up, melt the snow off the roof' --but that sometimes actually exasperates the issue, because now you have more water coming down and building ice on the eave. "Or if there's a leak, it's melting it into whatever hole or penetration it's found to get in the house."

Severson Plumbing Service Manager Brian Noon said "If you have copper pipes or metallic pipe, we have a special machine that can run electricity through your pipes to thaw them out. Most of the pipes right now, unfortunately, are made of plastic. So you're going to be playing the waiting game, hoping that it doesn't break."

But roofers and plumbers aren't the only ones residents are calling for service.

"Today, I believe we have about eight rigs out," said Brooks Boehlert, co-owner of Servpro in Bend. "And then a couple supervisors out in individual rigs. We had teams today in Madras, La Pine, Bend, Redmond -- we have a crew out in Sisters working, so it's been pretty busy."

Meanwhile, Bend Fire & Rescue has been answering dozens of fire and other alarms, mostly involving frozen or broken pipes for sprinkler systems. Here's a report from Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering:

"Over the past four days, since the start of the frigid weather, we have responded to 36 commercial alarms due to freezing and breaking of fire sprinkler systems. This does not include residential response for freeze and break of domestic household piping (of which there has also been a considerable response). 

"We commonly see freeze and break situations in businesses that have had work done where insulation may have been displaced in attic spaces or walls, businesses that are not testing and maintaining their fire sprinkler systems as per fire code, and businesses or residences that are unoccupied and the heat is not maintained at an adequate level.

"Whether commercial or residential, the first thing is to know the systems in your business or home.  Know how they operate, and how to shut them off in the event of an emergency.  This applies not just to plumbing and fire sprinkler systems, but also to gas and electrical systems, too. 

"Consider having temperature sensors installed in attics and void spaces where freezing is a risk. Consider having an energy audit performed to see if your insulation is adequate, especially in those hidden areas. 

"For domestic water systems in danger of freezing, maintain an adequate heat level in the house if possible.  Ensure garden hoses are disconnected and external faucets are protected.  Insulate pipes in your home, seal any air leaks, open the doors to cabinets where piping is located, and open faucets slightly," Kettering said.

Noon told NewsChannel 21, "The best thing you can do this time of year is to leave your cabinets open, and leave at least one faucet on with a trickle. And that will keep thousands of dollars worth of damage from coming your way."

Greenlee added, "But you also want to kind of take a look at your outside edges and your floor, too, along the walls. Cause often times what happens, that water comes off, hits a deck, and starts coming back in under a door, under a jam."

According to the businesses, among the things you can do to help yourself not experience an issue is to let a faucet drip, use a snow rake to help get packed snow off of your roof, and call a professional if you believe the task is too big to handle yourself.

Simpson explained, "Your roof is designed to handle quite a bit of snow load. So don't get desperate and try to hop on your roof and take it off yourself. I've seen a lot of people get hurt over the years doing that."

Boehlert added some tips: "Simple things like disconnecting exterior hoses, putting hose bib covers over exterior faucets. Making sure if you have ventilation in your crawl space when the winter months start, you're putting in blocks."

Bend Fire & Rescue says if you have a fire sprinkler system in your business, it needs to be inspected, tested and maintained by a qualified company on an annual basis.

Any area that has water or fire sprinkler piping in it needs to be kept at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, due to most breaks occurring when temperatures dip below that.

Article Topic Follows: Weather

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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