Another danger from freezing weather
This past Sunday our department was paged out for an “explosion and fire” at a residence that demonstrated the incredible power of freezing and steam.
The owners were away and the plumbing – including the heat exchanger in the wood stove – had frozen up. Some friends had come by and lit a fire hoping to defrost the place. A while after lighting the woodstove they heard a hissing sound, followed by an incredibly destructive blast that demolished the stove, sending shrapnel throughout the house and yard, blowing out a number of windows and skylights.
One person was badly injured by the flying debris, and a number of small fires were started throughout the house from the stoves burning contents.
The picture above is of the remains of the heat exchanger from the woodstove, once a rectangular shape like the bottom section. The 3/16″ thick stainless steel was no match for the damage from freezing and then from the forces generated by the steam. For a mathematical perspective – a steam plant engineer has stated that 6 gallons of water heated to 350’F has the explosive force of 1 lb. of TNT. After seeing the damage to this home, I can say I have no problem believing those figures.