The maintenance worker accidentally set fire to the South Omaha complex

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – An unsuspecting maintenance worker who used a propane burner on flammable, frozen water pipes lit a fire in the Cornish apartments on Monday.

Rodney McLelland couldn’t hold back his tears when he realized that his mistake would force tenants out of their homes. He wanted to apologize for what had happened.

“I caught fire on the frozen pipes and thawed them. I turned around for a minute … I’ll come back and it’s a blazing fire, ”he said in the apartments near 10th Street and William Street.

Rodney McLelland tells me he’s sorry he started the fire in the Cornish Apartments on Monday.

He thought he was doing the right thing by trying to thaw frozen pipes. @ WOWT6News pic.twitter.com/4e1Pybf3JV

– Alex McLoon WOWT (@AlexMcLoon) February 15, 2021

The Omaha Fire Department says only certified plumbers are allowed to handle frozen pipes. While winters freeze in the Midwest – according to Aksarben Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, space heaters can be just as dangerous.

“You have to be careful with them,” said Neil Herring. “We’re not used to living with them. If not, make sure you are careful and don’t have things around that could catch fire. Do not use extension cords to get heat. “

The cellar fire rose from a chase and through the walls of the historic mansion.

“The apartment will not be habitable for a while,” said battalion chief Matt Carmichael. “There is a lot of water damage. The fire started in the basement and was persecuted. So most of the damage is on the third and fourth floors. “

Firefighters worked at all levels of both buildings on the site.

Heavy smoke is coming from a building at 1009 William Street. Work on more information. @ WOWT6News pic.twitter.com/S8HL16LZe2

– Brandon Tvrdy WOWT (@Brandon_Tvrdy) February 15, 2021

Displaced renters had to warm up in their cars this afternoon. But tonight the Red Cross says it is still waiting to hear if residents need help. A spokesman said they were waiting to receive information from the apartment complex. The fire department says no one was injured.

McLelland apologized for burdening tenants on a day the area is extremely cold. On a record breaking cold day in Omaha, there were changing outages and companies asking customers to save electrical energy.

Here are a few pictures from the apartment fire today.
Check the ice on the inside of the clutch!

Fighting fires in freezing temperatures has so many unique challenges. # OmahaFireDepartment

📸 = @ TimJack16198168 pic.twitter.com/33qTlHRxE9

– OFD firefighter J. Wendt (@OFDFFWendt), February 16, 2021

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