PITKIN COUNTY, Colorado (CBS4) Authorities are investigating after vandals attacked the Black Hills Energy system, leaving about 3,500 customers in the Aspen area with no heat or water on Monday. An investigation is ongoing in multiple jurisdictions with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Aspen Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This incident happened at a time when so many are trying to enjoy the vacation. It’s absolutely the last thing any of us want to do, ”said Richard Pryor, Aspen Police Chief, during a community meeting Monday night.
Investigators posted a photo to the Aspen Daily News of one of the crime scenes with “Earth First!” scribbled in black marking. The radical environmental group of the same name took no responsibility for the vandalism, according to the Aspen Police Department.
Similar graffiti was found in another scene, according to Bill Linn, the deputy chief of police in Aspen. He said the vandalism was considered a criminal offense.
More than 100 Black Hills Energy technicians are individually turning off, flushing and testing 3,500 gas meters in the Aspen area to bring natural gas customers back online. Customers may smell a faint natural gas due to the controlled release, but officials said it was normal and to be expected. Natural gas has a distinct odor, similar to a rotten egg.
The crews plan to start bringing gasoline into the homes starting late Monday evening. Work will continue into the early hours of the morning on Tuesday.
“We brought in contractors and our employees from a multi-state area,” said Vance Crocker, vice president of operations for Black Hills Energy Colorado. “We’re working safely and as quickly as possible to make sure we can get this service back to you.”
Black Hills Energy requires someone over the age of 18 to be present during the re-lighting process. Crocker says customers can speed up the process by clearing snow to make it easier for crews to access gas meters.
When no one is home, the technicians will leave a door tag with information to schedule a time to restore service. Customers are asked not to re-ignite devices themselves because of possible dangers.
Pitkin County officials are working to distribute 4,000 heaters to community members. They are available from the Aspen Police and Fire Department with a limit of one per household.
Pitkin Community Alert for the Aspen Region (s): The Aspen Police Department has additional heaters available to the Aspen Police Department and the Aspen Fire Department at 420 E Hopkins Ave. be distributed. We ask you to conserve only 1 per household life, not pr
– Pitkin Co. Sheriff (@PitkinSheriff) December 29, 2020
“I would ask anyone in Aspen to check on a neighbor,” said Joe DiSalvo, Pitkin County sheriff. “If you know someone who may be in chronic need of help or a home, please reach out to these people tonight and see if they are okay. Hopefully we’ll get out of here tomorrow. “
Customers can call Black Hills Energy at 888-890-5554 if they are having problems with their natural gas service or have non-urgent questions. Please visit the company’s website for more information on the outage.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Aspen Police Department at 970-920-5400.