COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- An official in Colorado Springs says home sprinklers helped save some homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire.
"I was up in Peregrine yesterday and I saw firsthand where some sprinklers were left on and houses were saved because of that," said Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities.
Forte said the utility company is going to remove water consumption for the time evacuees were out of their homes. The utility is also adjusting bills for customers whose homes were destroyed by the fire to a zero balance.
Utility workers are going house to house and business to business restoring power. They hope to reestablish gas service to 500 homes in the lower Mountain Shadows area by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. However, Forte said the rest of the area has a significant amount of damage and it's going to take significant amount of time to restore service.
While some 7,000 evacuees were allowed to go home in the Waldo Canyon fire zone over the weekend, some 3,000 people were still evacuated on Monday morning.
Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for the Mountain Shadows neighborhood from south of Wolfe Ranch Road and west of Flying W Ranch Road to 30th Street, and several streets east of Flying W Ranch Road.
Officials lifted evacuation orders for residents on Elleen Ct., Centauri Rd., Boardwalk Dr., and Corporate Plz Dr. at noon Monday. Evacuation orders were also lifted for home on Granby Court from addresses 4510 to 4795.
Officials plan to open more neighborhoods on Tuesday.
The Waldo Canyon Fire has been burning for 10 days. It has burned 17,827 acres and is 55 percent contained. The fire killed two people. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Highway 24 is also now open, although officials have asked the public to avoid using the highway to keep it clear for fire trucks coming and going from the fire.
Authorities said they have had at least 22 burglary reports in the fire zone, so far. There are also 60 reports of evacuees' cars being broken into while they were staying at nearby hotels.
On Monday, District Attorney Dan May had strong words for looters.
"To those who may be contemplating, thinking about burglarizing those homes, you better get prepared also," May said. "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."
May said the first burglary charge can carry a prison sentence of up to 24 years. Each additional burglary charge can add another 24 years.
"I can assure the people of the Pikes Peak region that whenever we have probable cause to charge, we will be filing the maximum charges," May said. "We will be extremely tough on these cases."
Members of the Colorado National Guard are helping police officers patrolling the evacuated areas.
Fighting The Fire
Islands of unburned brush and trees in the fire zone continue to burn out and produce intermittent smoke columns.
However there has been no perimeter growth, said Incident Commander Rich Harvey.
"The fire is continuing to burn," said Jerri Marr with the U.S. Forest Service. "We still have places that are really hot, at the same time we have places where we've increased containment."
There are 1,581 fire personnel fighting this fire with the help of 11 helicopters. Full containment is expected July 16.
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