On January 20, I was home, doing laundry, watching TV and I had the heat tape on the north side of the house on. Nothing unusual or very interesting except for the fact that the roof caught on fire.
I was watching a movie and the washer/dryer was running and I heard an odd crackling noise. I turned off the washer/dryer and the noise coming from the electrical panel got louder. Boots on, I went to check it out and though the panel was fine, the conduit was making a racket. Back through the house I went out front to the part of the roof over the mudroom and there was smoke. Lots of smoke.
The 220v heat tape was arcing, producing smoke and some flames. Capped by ice I couldn’t see what part of the roof was burning but made no mistake, it was burning.
I dialed 9-1-1 and the dispatcher responded. They ask for your address, phone number, your name and what’s going on. By the time I spoke with a dispatcher I was already terrified. Smoke and flames in the mountain area is never good and bad things happen.
As I spoke with the dispatcher, I held the phone with one hand and shoveled snow with a pitcher in the other. I’m smart enough to know to not touch the metal gutter because of the arcing so I laid on the snow without making contact.
The dispatcher pleaded with me to move away from the house. The gas meter in on the north side, so no worries about a gas explosion but I felt I had to keep putting snow on the fire. I stepped back to catch my breath and I noticed the 110v heat tape was still plugged in at the front of the house, so I jerked the plug from the socket. The arcing stopped.
It felt like forever waiting for the fire department to arrive and the fire chief was the first to arrive. He didn’t seem too worried by what he saw. Moments later, the trucks pulled up and they put a ladder up and inspected the roof.
They went to the electric panel in the back yard and shut off the power to the house just to be sure. You could see and smell the damage.
The fire captain came out from and said the breakers had tripped and that’s what stopped the 220v heat tape from arcing. I told him the 220v heat tape wasn’t on.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
Yes, I was positive.
The fire department shut off power to the house and I called my son and asked him to find me an electrician. I was in no shape to deal with the run around I get from service personnel and a few minutes later someone from Spectrum Electric in Conifer called. Their electrician would be out in an hour.
When the electrician first saw the panel his first words were, “Was the person who wired this drunk?”
The respective heat tapes were wired wrong with no ground and without the proper breakers. In short, the panel caused the fire.
Fast forward to a few days later when the insurance adjuster came out to review the damage and start a claim. The problems list is as follows:
•Have the electrical panel checked out – what else is wrong in there?
•Get estimates on new heat tape and gutter replacement
•Have a roofer come out and check to make sure the snow/ice layer was added when the roof was put on because now there’s leakage into the house that may be tied to a shoddy roofing job.
•Have the ice and snow removed from the roof so the contractors can get at it and make repairs
Yet another problem at the Bar B.