Recently there have been a couple of fires and near fires in the county caused by ice-melt systems installed on the roofs of homes. The roof and entire second floor of a Redding home were destroyed by a fire believed to have been caused by one of these systems three weeks ago. Last summer a home on Wahackme Road suffered damage from a roof fire started by an old ice-melt system.

The systems consist of "heat" wires that are installed on the eaves of the roof in a saw-tooth pattern and down the downspouts of homes. They are intended to stop damage caused by ice dams that occur after heavy snow build-up like we had this past winter.

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This past winter many people were buying roof rakes (or hiring companies) and scraping the snow off their roof which could have caused damage to these wires. This could cause a short that could start a fire on the roof.

Like any "system" installed in a home they require occasional maintenance and a basic understanding of how they work. The following is a list of steps homeowners can take to ensure continued safe operation of their ice-melt systems:

1. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for operation and maintenance. If you do not have an owners manual, one may be obtained by searching online under the manufacturer's name.

2. If the system is older, contact an electrician to verify that the system is working properly. They may also be able to provide instructions on proper operation.

3. Some systems have a "summer" and "winter" setting that must be adjusted depending on the season.

4. Check the wires for any damage. If the insulation is cracked or damaged turn the system off immediately and have a licensed electrician make repairs.

5. Clean gutters and roof valleys of accumulations of leaves and debris as this is usually the first material ignited if there is a short.

6. Verify that proper permits have been obtained by the electrician for any new installations.

For further information regarding this subject please contact the New Canaan Fire Marshal's Office at 203-594-3030.