DENVER – Black Hills Energy employees continued to shut down gas service to about 3,500 customers on Monday afternoon when three of their sites became vandalized over the weekend, and Pitkin County officials said those customers in the Aspen area were in heat and Will remain without hot water. At least until Tuesday morning.
Of the sites that were vandalized on Saturday night, one was in the city of Aspen and two others were in Pitkin County. Officials from both the county and the city said Monday afternoon that a criminal investigation was underway.
Vandalism was observed on Saturday evening after customers reported losing gas pressure and as the investigation continued on Sunday, Black Hills Energy found more issues with gas lines and began shutting down meters for affected customers.
Vans Crocker, Black Hills Energy’s vice president of operations, said Monday afternoon that the crew was expected to shut down the entire system by Monday evening, and then the crew would ensure lines to visit each customer’s locations. Are purified and expected and will be safely returned by 11 a.m. Monday. Black Hills Energy plans to work to restore the outage to around 100 employees in the state.
“We must first make sure that all gas meters are turned off, then purify the system so that it is ready for the re-production of the natural gas supply. Finally, our technicians will go door-to-door and each customer’s gas The devices will move, ”Crocker said in a statement.
County officials said Black Hills Energy employees will start relaying people’s pilot lights and other gas-powered equipment from 5 a.m. on Tuesday. They are asking that no one attempt to return their devices on their own. People with non-emergency questions can call 888-890-5554.
According to APD’s Bill Lynn, the FBI has been called in to assist in the investigation because it involves significant utility infrastructure, and is leading the investigation by Aspen Police.
Lynn said the vandalism occurred around the same time on Saturday and included vandalism of closed gas lines and that two of the three sites were open and not inside buildings.
One of the sites had a group name, Earth First, written on it, but on Monday authorities declined to elaborate on whether the name had any connection to vandalism. He said that he did not believe vandalism would qualify as terrorism.
Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Joe DiSalvo said, “The word ‘attack’ has been thrown around a lot.” He said, “This is not a word I would use. It was a deliberate attack to disrupt gas service in and around Aspen. “
Officials said physical evidence including footprints have been recovered from all three scenes.
The crimes under investigation include endangering a public utility, theft and criminal tampering, Lynn said.
A tip line for testing is installed at 970-924-0614. The county jail is being operated by electric heat, DiSalvo said.
Lynn said a limited number of space heaters by Black Hills Energy are available for pickup at the Aspen Police Headquarters, located at 540 East Main Street. They were out by 6:20 pm, but said there were 3,600 N routes.
The city is asking people to park in parking spaces north of Main Street or in front of the Concept 600 building. Those who pull and open their passenger windows will find a heater dropped inside for contactless delivery.
Those who are unable to come to the police station can make a request by calling 970-920-5310 and an officer will bring it to them as soon as possible.
Pitkin County and the city of Aspen are having a community meeting on Zoom on Monday at 6pm, which you can view by clicking here.
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