COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Police say they intend to find and prosecute anyone guilty of a crime in the Black Forest Fire evacuation areas.
The battle against the blaze that has destroyed nearly 500 homes continues, and police are on the lookout for looters, burn vandals and people committing other crimes in the areas closed to the public.
“We know there is a very small isolated group that may put their greed ahead of the loss of our our friends and neighbors in this community,” said Dan May, district attorney for the region, on Monday.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa talked with CBS4 about the particular crimes. He said they have reports of several crimes. So far four homes have been found to be looted.
Maketa also talked about having a tremendous amount of resources to protect the properties from vandals.
“So when we look at the vast expanse of area that has been evacuated, the number of streets and residences that have been patrolled, I think the numbers are fairly low and I’m pretty happy with it,” Maketa said. “We are pursuing each of those cases and I know without a doubt the district attorney is going to take them all very, very seriously.”
Law enforcement will continue to patrol the evacuated areas as long as the evacuation orders are in effect, although more and more evacuations are now being lifted with the fire at 75 percent containment.
On Monday in a news conference Maketa said he spent time in the evacuated areas the night before and he was “impressed with the law enforcement activity.”
“We had talk over the radio last night about somebody wandering into the evacuated area on an ATV. There must have been 10 law enforement officers on it. There was red and blue lights everywhere. It was a great scene,” Maketa said.
May said his office plans to prosecute anyone found looting “to the maximum extent of the law.”
Last month, two looters from the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned nearby in Colorado Springs, were sentenced to 72 years and 48 years in jail respectively.
Dan May, district attorney for El Paso County, said some homeowners who are returning home might see some damage at their houses. If it’s unclear whether the damage is from firefighters who battled the fire around their homes or possibly from a looter, there’s a hotline that has been set up. That number to call is (719) 390-5555.
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