A natural gas company is restoring service to thousands of customers in Colorado after vandalism that damaged lines and forced them to shut off gas, leaving residents without heat and hot water.
According to a statement Monday from Black Hills Energy’s vice president of operations, Vance Crocker, crew members worked to bring more than 3,500 gas meters back online in Aspen, a process that ‘requires several steps’.
“We must first make sure all gas meters are out, and then clean the system so that it is ready for the reintroduction of the natural gas supply,” Crocker added. “Eventually, our technicians will go door-to-door and re-ignite each customer’s gas appliances.”
According to NBC’s subsidiary KUSA in Denver, Crocker said at a community meeting on Monday that the gas line repair process was expected to begin Tuesday, with 150 technicians deployed to work on the case and 4,000 heaters distributed during repairs.
The Aspen Times reports that gas lines across the city have been found damaged, with the name of the environmental organization Earth First! written on one pipe vandalized on one of three Black Hills Energy sites.
It was not clear on Monday whether the organization’s members were directly involved in the damage., according to the newspaper Aspen.
‘They would have to be a little bit familiar with the system’ to carry out the sabotage, Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Monday.
‘They tampered with flow lines. “They switched off gas lines,” he continued.
Linn added that the police did not receive any communication from Earth First! in response to the damages.
At Monday’s community meeting, Aspen police chief Richard Pryor said a multi-jurisdictional investigation was being conducted to determine who was behind the vandalism and how they were able to carry it out.
Linn said Monday that the FBI is assisting local detectives in the investigation, as well as government officials, according to the Times.
Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper, who was without heat at her home in Smuggler Mountain on Monday, called the vandalism “an act of terrorism”.
“It’s destroying a mountain community at the height of the holiday season,” Clapper continued, Times reported. “It was not a national gas mistake. It was a deliberate act. ”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday that he was reluctant to describe the incident as an attack.
“I know the word has been thrown around a lot,” he said. “It’s not a word I would use, but vandalism rather an intentional act” to disrupt the gas service to Aspen.