Crews were still working Tuesday to restore natural gas service to thousands of Colorado residents and businesses after a string of vandalism damaged lines and prompted a police investigation.
Black Hills Energy said crews were able to restore service to its “most critical customers” Monday night. The company does not have an estimate as to when the gas service would be fully restored to all 3,500 impacted customers, spokeswoman Carly West told USA TODAY.
“Technicians are working in a grid pattern in order to move efficiently and restore gas service to as many of the 3,500 impacted customers as quickly as possible,” Black Hills Energy said in a statement.
The company added, “Residential customers will be prioritized during daylight hours, and after 11 p.m. technicians will work to restore service to commercial and government buildings.”
Technicians spent much of Monday shutting off 3,500 gas meters in Aspen, the company said in a statement. Technicians needed to go door-to-door shutting off meters before “purging and pressure testing the system.”
After that, the company could start restoring service for impacted customers who were being forced to live without heat or hot water in below-freezing temperatures. That process, which also requires workers to go door-to-door, is expected to continue into Tuesday, Vance Crocker, vice president of operations for Black Hills Energy in Colorado, said during a press conference.
“We’ve got about 150 technicians working out in the field,” Crocker said.
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The effort to restore service has been hampered by freezing temperatures and snow in the area. It was 26 degrees in Aspen on Tuesday afternoon, with a 30% chance of more snow. Temperatures are forecast below zero on Tuesday night.
Black Hills Energy supplied thousands of heaters for residents without heat or hot water to use, said Gabe Muething, incident commander for Pitkin County’s incident management team.
The local sheriff’s office is working with police officers to “try to determine what happened to cause this vandalism — who did it, how it happened, etc,” Aspen police chief Richard Pryor said during Monday’s press conference.
A photo of one of the gas pipes, shared by the Times, shows “Earth First!” written on it. Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn told the newspaper that police have not received any communication from Earth First!, a group that describes itself as a “radical environmental movement,” taking credit for the vandalism.
Linn told the local newspaper that FBI agents are working with local detectives in the investigation. USA TODAY has reached out to the FBI for confirmation of its investigation.
Three locations were vandalized, and all three were hit around the same time, the Times reported.
Contributing: Jessica Flores, USA TODAY