- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - On Jan. 10, when many people were at home looking at nearly foot-deep snow and thermometers plunging about as far below zero as they’d ever seen, Eric Hitzfield was at work and on the phone with an emergency call from the Fort Wayne streets department.

The hill on Hillegas Road leading to Jefferson Boulevard was snow-covered and icy. Vehicles already had spun out, and the road had to be closed - even as the city faced a deadline as to when a snow emergency that kept all but essential traffic off the streets would expire.

Could he help?

Enter a product Hitzfield has been selling for the last five years.

He sent some to the site, and within minutes - about 10, he says - the snow and ice were melting down to clear pavement and the road could be reopened even though conventional road salt had been rendered ineffective by the day’s low temperatures.

“Some of the guys working out there couldn’t believe it,” he tells The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1d54nNh ).

The product, Ice B’Gone Magic, is a road deicer made from organic waste from distilling vodka and rum, says Hitzfield, co-owner of ES De-icing in Fort Wayne and the products’ distributor for Indiana and parts of Ohio and Michigan.

This year, he says, area homeowners have expanded access to the product, which he says promises not only lower-temperature melts but also more protection of surfaces and equipment and a more environmentally friendly profile.

Hitzfield, 38, found out about the de-icers about a half-dozen years ago as a second-generation commercial-property plower facing a severe shortage of road salt. He says he began looking for alternatives.

“We went through a lot of (product) testing,” he says, “and this one blew everything we tried out of the water.”

Opening a plastic canister of Ice B’Gone Magic, which contains brown sugar-colored crystals with a butterscotch-like scent, Hitzfield says the product is effective down to minus 35 degrees, though lower temperatures may take a little longer to work. Conventional road salt works to about 18 degrees, he says.

Dan Juergens, co-owner of Juergens Do it Best hardware store in Huntington, says he can attest to that. He uses the product on the sidewalk and parking lot at the business and was among the first area stores to carry it for homeowner use.

Once customers buy the product, which sells for $19.99 for a 50-pound bag, they return for more, he says. Ice B’Gone Magic is now available at other area Do it Best outlets through its warehouse system, he says.

“It is more expensive but the nice thing about it is that . it lasts longer,” Juergens says, adding it goes up to twice as far as conventional products that sell for $6.50 and $11.50 for the same weight.

“There’s residual, so when the next skiff of snow comes around, it keeps working,” he adds. “And it doesn’t rust out the (spreading) equipment, because it’s noncorrosive.”

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