Black Forest Fire Victims Share Concerns About Looting Cases
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – As police in El Paso County dig deeper into cases of looting in the Black Forest Fire burn area, one homeowner who was targeted told CBS4 he tried several measures to stop burglars.
What was Colorado’s most destructive wildfire destroyed 486 homes after exploding on June 11 northeast of Colorado Springs, and while it was raging thousands of houses were evacuated. Officials worked hard to prevent criminals from entering the evacuation zones, but some crime has taken place.
There have been at least seven cases of burglary reported in the burn area since the fire began, according to authorities, and there are other incidents that are being reviewed. A home surveillance videocamera recently caught someone at a house in the burn area who authorities say didn’t belong there. The image from that camera is seen below.
Police also continue to try to prevent criminals from going through the charred remains of homes that were destroyed.
Fire victim Steve Earl says suspicious people came to what’s left of his house. He says a neighbor found people picking through the debris.
“One that was up here, my neighbor had to confront him and say ‘Hey, what are you doing up here?’ And they were like ‘Oh, we were looking at buying the house.’ His response was ‘Yeah, but this isn’t your house so what are you doing here?’ ” Earl said.
Earl said he and family members had to stick around at the torched home overnight one night because they were so concerned.
“I had to actually get my paint gun. I was thinking of anything I could do to protect us or mark up their vehicles if I had to and get a picture of their license plate.”
Earl described the actions of looters in burn areas as “soulless.”
Earl’s home is not far from where Marc and Robin Herklotz died while trying to flee from their house. The area has some houses that are burned to the ground and others that still stand.
Residents like Bonnie Kidd fear that creates a target for the looters. Kidd and her husband were helping a friend clear out the metal left behind in what was once a home when CBS4 interviewed her on Tuesday.
“That makes me feel sad. People are really violated when you take their things. They shouldn’t without permission. That really makes me sad and angry,” she said.
This week Colorado Springs police were called to a storage facility that looked suspicious due to a broken lock. Inside, they say, were goods that had been stolen from a Black Forest evacuee. (Full Story)
Last week police said two men who allegedly burglarized Black Forest victims were reportedly caught on surveillance video. They are accused of taking valuable metal from damaged and destroyed homes. The victim who took the video had metal stolen from his home and another homeowner got hit as well.
Deputies arrested Dominique Smith, 23 and Phillip Madden, 26, in that case. They both face charges of theft and criminal trespass.
Last May a judge sentenced two people convicted of looting in 2012 in the nearby Waldo Canyon burn area to sentences that were longer than those that are sometimes given out for some killers and rapists.(Full Story)