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Saboteurs Cut Off Aspen's Heat

Gas lines were shut down at 3 sites
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2020 3:27 PM CST
Attack Leaves Thousands Without Heat
Snow clouds hang over Aspen Mountain earlier this month in Aspen, Colorado.   (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)/The Aspen Times via AP)

Somebody shut off gas lines to Aspen, Colorado Saturday night, leaving thousands of people without heat in what police called a coordinated attack. "They tampered with flow lines. They turned off gas lines," a police official said. Utility officials said about 3,500 customers lost service, ABC reports. To restore it, crews were going to each natural gas meter, turning it off manually, then relighting the pilot light. The utility wasn't sure how long that will take. In the meantime, Aspen police were distributing about 6,000 portable space heaters; temperatures were forecast to fall near zero Tuesday night. "It's almost, to me, an act of terrorism,” said a county commissioner, whose home also lost heat, per the Aspen Times. "It's trying to destroy a mountain community at the height of the holiday season. This wasn’t a national gas glitch. This was a purposeful act."

The FBI has joined the investigation. Police said three Black Hills Energy gas line sites were struck in an apparently coordinated attack. There were no security cameras at the sites, though police said there was physical evidence, including footprints. "Earth First!" was written on one pipe, and invesigators are checking the radical environment advocacy group of that name for possible involvement. ABC's emails to the group weren't answered. "They would have had to have some familiarity with the system" to sabotage it, a police official said. No injuries have been reported since the gas was interrupted. The electric utility said it's prepared for the extra load until gas service is restored. "This is having a major impact on people’s lives," the county manager said. (More Aspen stories.)

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