FROM THE ARCHIVES: DA pledges to prosecute burglaries committed during Waldo Canyon Fire

The Mountain Shadows neighborhood and some adjacent neighborhoods were devastated by a firestorm from the Waldo Canyon fire. Monday, July 2, 2012. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MONDAY, JULY 2, 2012: With 3,000 residents still displaced, District Attorney Dan May had strong words for anyone considering taking advantage of the plethora of empty homes.

"I hope you have packed your bags. We intend to evacuate you from our community, and we intend to do that for many, many years."

Colorado Springs police announced over the weekend that 24 burglaries and attempted burglaries had occurred in evacuated areas. May stressed that each burglary could result in a 24-year sentence per home burglarized.

May was among several officials who addressed the media in Monday morning's press conference, on the 10th day since the Waldo Canyon Fire first made its presence known.

The fire remains at 55 percent containment and 17,827 acres Monday morning. The cost of fighting the fire to date is $11.1 million.

Forest Supervisor Jeri Marr says firefighter morale continues to be high.

"This is what they train for ... what they live for," Marr said.

Colorado Springs Utilities addressed concerns of returning evacuees and those who lost their homes, assuring them to company would not make a buck off of their misfortune. They pointed those concerned to the website. The company's statement is below:

In all areas where evacuees have been allowed to return home, electric, water and wastewater services are operating normally.

Results of water quality tests meet all regulatory requirements. Run water through a hose or sprinkler for five minutes to clear sediment and air from your lines.

Natural gas service is not available to all customers at this time to allow for system testing and to keep employees and customers safe.

Starting today [Monday July 2], our employees, with help from Xcel employees, will go house-to-house to conduct final safety checks and light pilot lights. Customers must be present for gas service to be turned on. We anticipate that this will take us through July 4 to complete.

We understand many of you are concerned about your bills. We are adjusting bills for customers that were evacuated or lost their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire. We are sensitive to the impacts of the fire and it is our desire to help as much as we can.

All homes that were destroyed will have their bills adjusted to a zero balance.

In evacuated areas, customer bills will be adjusted, removing water consumption for the days evacuated.

In areas where we turned off natural gas and electricity services for safety reasons, daily charges will be removed for electricity and gas from June 23, 2012 to the date that services were restored.

Check our restoration process page for more information about restoration of utilities services in affected areas.

Customer service representatives are staffing the Disaster Recovery Center to answer your specific questions.

We operate at the direction and discretion of Incident Command. If directed to evacuate, our employees will comply.

Returning evacuees who need to throw out old food were directed to Woodmen-Roberts Elementary or Eagleview Middle School to drop bags of bad food off.

Rich Harvey addressed anticipated weather conditions for Monday, stating that thunderstorms, potentially accompanied by strong and crazy winds, were forecasted. He assured the public that firefighters were expecting those weather conditions and had a plan in place.

One area that had proved problematic over the course of the week was a spot in the Cave of the Winds area. Harvey said he was pleased to announce that boots were on the ground in the area, and they "had gotten it."

The fire's perimeter was holding, Rich said, and any acreage currently being added to the overall total were fires on "islands" of previously unburned land inside the perimeter. None of those areas burning are expected to be a threat to the public.

Investigators still don't have a cause, but have finally been given a green light to go to the fire's point of origin to start piecing the puzzle together. Monday is their first full day to be inside the fire lines.

The press conference ended on a touching note, with volunteers Jonathan and Diane Cunningham presenting fire officials with a giant thank you card full of signatures thanking firefighters and others involved for all the work they have done. Five families who lost their homes June 26 were included in the signatures.