Hundreds left without heat days after vandals disrupted thousands of meters
Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF
Around 700 people are still without heat after vandals disrupted gas service to residences in Colorado Saturday evening, the Aspen Daily News reported Wednesday.
The Aspen, Colorado, city council declared an emergency Tuesday in response to the disruption in gas service where around 3,500 Black Hills Energy natural gas meters were affected, the Aspen Daily News reported. An estimated 2,000 customers were affected, though around 65% of services were restored as of Tuesday.
The phrase “Earth First!” was written on a pipe at a natural gas pumping station, though it’s unclear whether the radical environmental advocacy group was involved in the incident, The Aspen Times reported. Linn said no group had claimed responsibility for the disruption.
Earth First! is a worldwide advocacy group that participates in a “direct action approach to protecting wilderness,” according to their website. The group claimed success in instances where other organizations gave up and lamented on the public attention they garnered.
The FBI has joined a criminal investigation of what police say appears to be an “intentional attack” on gas service lines in Aspen, Colorado, that left thousands of residents and businesses without heat as temperatures plunged to near zero degrees. https://t.co/XalHPPO6Er
— ABC News (@ABC) December 29, 2020
Around 150 technicians were available to respond to the incident and spent several hours visiting individual gas meters in the snow on Monday, The Aspen Times reported. Technicians from several other companies responded to help deliver 4,000 space heaters to affected residences.
“We’re hopeful that by late afternoon (or) early evening, we will have all the meters shut off,” Black Hills Energy Vice President of Operations Vance Crocker said, The Aspen Times reported.
Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper described the incident as an “act of terrorism,” The Aspen Times reported. “It’s trying to destroy a mountain community at the height of the holiday season. This wasn’t a national gas glitch. This was a purposeful act.”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said he wouldn’t characterize the incident as an attack, The Aspen Times reported. “It’s not a word I would use.”
A total of three Black Hills Energy locations were vandalized and the gas meters had been physically tampered with, The Aspen Times Reported. All three locations were targeted around the same time though the motive was unclear.
“They would have had to have some familiarity with the system,” Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said, The Aspen Times reported. “They tampered with flow lines. They turned off gas lines.”
No injuries have been reported in connection with the disruption, according to The Aspen Times.
FBI and local officials are working on investigations into the incidents, according to The Aspen Times. Local detectives and state law enforcement officials are aiding the investigations.
The Aspen Police Department did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.