Introducing Gerry McGonagle, General Manager of the BELFOR Boston and New Hampshire offices. He has quite the sense of humor! High-res

Introducing Gerry McGonagle, General Manager of the BELFOR Boston and New Hampshire offices. He has quite the sense of humor!

Checking for Drafts in a Home

A flame is a simple draft-checking tool. It’s old-school, effective and can save you money on your energy bills.

Here’s how to use one:

  1. Begin by turning off any fans or heaters that blow air through the house.
  2. Grab a candle and matches.Start by checking all of the windows in the house. 
  3. Place the lit candle near the closed window (about 2 inches away) and move it around the edges and anywhere there is a separation between window panes.If the candle flickers toward you or blows out, you have a draft in that location. Test it again to confirm.
  4. Move on to your doors. First check around the back of the door where the hinges sit, as this is a commonly drafty place. Note all areas where the candle flame flickers or blows out, and mark them with tape that won’t leave a residue.
  5. For a more thorough check, turn off the light and grab a flashlight. Ask a friend to hold the flashlight if possible and shine it around the door edges. Go outside to look at how much light is escaping from the edges of the door —- these are all potential draft locations around the door.

Adapted from:

Photo credit:

Great Chicago Fire Facts
  • Before the fire died the morning of Tuesday, October 10, it cut a swath through Chicago approximately 3.3 square miles in size.
  • The devastation was enormous. Property valued at $192 million was destroyed, 100,000 people were left homeless, and 300 people lost their lives.
  • That summer, the rainfall in the city was scant. For three weeks leading up to October 8, no rain fell in Chicago. Many of the houses in Chicago at that time were made of wood and poorly constructed. The surrounding sidewalks and roads were made of wood as well.
  • Winds on the night of October 8 were gusting up to 30 mph, facilitating the spread of the fire.
  • Board of Police and Fire Commissioners failed to pinpoint the fire’s cause, stating “whether it originated from a spark blown from a chimney on that windy night, or was set on fire by human agency, we are unable to determine.”
  • The most famous of the colorful legends surrounding this catastrophic event is that it started when a cow kicked over a lantern and ignited a barn, spreading the fire to nearby houses and sidewalks. Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that it was fabricated because he thought it would create colorful copy.
  • Even before the fire burnt out, plans were made to remake the city. Within days, small businesses erected sheds and stands. Business traffic began to move again.
  • When anxious businessmen opened their safes among the rubble of what was once their offices, precious contents that had survived the inferno suddenly burst into flame upon exposure to the air.
  • In 1997, in a nod to the city’s history, Major League Soccer announced the formation of an expansion team called the Chicago Fire.

Sources:,, Wikipedia

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Don’t let your pipes freeze!

Fortunately it's just a light rain!

Fortunately it’s just a light rain.

Broken water pipes can cause thousands of dollars in repairs and water damage clean-up. Here’s some advice for homeowners and businesses to ensure that your pipes don’t freeze this winter.

1.)    Identify all areas in and around your home that are most likely to freeze, including parts of your plumbing system in unheated areas. These are often located in a basement, crawl space or exterior wall with little insulation.

2.)    Check outside pipes and hoses and look for any signs of leaks or damage. Drain external faucets. Any water left may freeze and burst, placing you at risk for flooding, water damage and mold problems.

3.)    To prevent pipes from freezing, do not turn off the heat in your home. Keeping your heat on, even at a low setting, will keep pipes warm enough to prevent freezing and bursting.

4.)    Use foam insulation tubes on exposed pipes in cold climates. You can also use heat tape to prevent freezing in pipes that have already been insulated.

5.)    Periodically run water through your plumbing lines to warm pipes and melt/loosen any ice that may be starting to accumulate. Moving water doesn’t have a chance to pool and freeze. To constantly run a stream through your pipes, simply leave a faucet on so that it drips.

Hopefully these tips will ensure that you don’t have a plumbing fiasco, so you can stay warm and dry this winter!

Source:  Photo credit: imgur

Fire-Safety Don’ts

  • Don’t throw water on a grease fire. Water doesn’t mix with oil.  If you are going to throw anything, make it a fire blanket or whip out a class F extinguisher.
  • Don’t try to save anything. Don’t run upstairs to retrieve heirlooms or passports. Don’t run around trying to save pets. Avoid this issue by putting important documents and keepsakes in a secure safe or fireproof box. Have a preparation plan for pets like this one.
  • Don’t open doors that have smoke billowing from the crevices. Opening the door will fuel the fire with oxygen, and cause a fireball that could singe your feet. A contained fire may burn out due to lack of oxygen.
  • Don’t hop in an elevator. Instead, take the stairs. The electric circuits are often the first to blow, and being trapped in a lift could be dangerous.
  • Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. A smoke detector gives early warning of a fire increasing the chances of escape. It’s inexpensive and incredibly easy, and yet many people neglect this task.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes in bed. Almost  1,000 smokers are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes each year.
  • Don’t forget to clean your dryer vents. Clothes dryer fires are the cause of more than 15,000 fires a year.
  • Don’t leave candles burning unattended. Candles aren’t just pretty decorative lights, they’re dangerous open flames.
  • Don’t store solvents and fuels indoors; it’s an easy way to turn a small fire into an inferno. Store flammable liquids in the garage.
  • Don’t jump from an upstairs window. Keep a safety ladder in bedrooms, or use blankets as a rope. If possible, throw mattresses out the window to cushion the landing.


Firebreak How-to’s

If you live in an area that’s prone to brush fires, it’s smart to keep a large firebreak between your home and the wilderness. By implementing these ideas, especially clearing the safety zone around your house, you have an excellent chance of protecting your home and family against wildfire.

Example of a good "firebreak"

Here’s a list of recommendations from the Texas Forest Service on how to prepare and maintain one:

  1. Propane tanks and gasoline cans should be far away from buildings, as well as all combustibles such as firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, stacked lumber.
  2. Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid build-up of flammable materials such as leaves and other debris.
  3. Remove branches from trees to a height of 15 feet or more.
  4. In rural areas, clear a fuel break of at least 3 times the fuel length around all structures. For example, if the trees are 30 feet high make sure they are 90 feet away.
  5. Have the following tools handy: ladder long enough to reach your roof, shovel, rake, garden hoses and buckets for water.

Assure that you and your family know all emergency exits from your home and neighborhood. Some fire departments can visit your home to assess these risks, and judge how safe or unsafe your property. Contact your local fire department today for assistance with these fire prevention tips.

Source: Texas Forest Service

Check out Chad in the latest installment of our “Meet the Team” series. He’s a swell guy. Tune in next Friday for another interview with a member of the BELFOR team.