July 03, 2012

When You Evacuate, the Predators Come Out

During the worst of the Waldo Canyon Fire a week ago, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs evacuated neighborhoods that the fire never came anywhere near.

One part of Manitou had a limited access by a narrow, twisty road that would have been nightmarish if firefighters were going in while residents were coming out.

But I am sure that part of the big evacuation order was a risk-averse bureaucratic response of "better safe than sorry" and avoiding legal liability for failing to "do something."

Unfortunately, it sounds as though the Colorado Springs Police Department was spread too thin: "Waldo Canyon Fire Evacuees Return To Find Property Burglarized, Vandalized."

They can't guard every cul-de-sac and every access point, it seems.

Plus there were more than sixty reports of car break-ins at Colorado Springs hotels where evacuees were staying. The police response: "Take your valuables up to your room."  Probably everything in the family minivan counted as "valuable," and the predators knew it.

As the article mentioned, two fake firefighters have been arrested too, one on the High Park Fire near Fort Collins and one on the Waldo Canyon Fire.

I cannot tell if they were interested in stealing fire equipment (that has happened before) or in stealing from empty homes.

During our evacuations, the local sheriff's department has relied on members of the volunteer sheriff's posse to help with roadblocks, and I have heard of no burglaries here. I have, however, heard of "sketchy" individuals being spotted in the area, people who drove away in a hurry when approached by homeowners. Some homes are on the state highway, for example, and can't be blockaded.

I also know from experience that a hard hat, a yellow Nomex shirt, and a cheery wave will get you through some blockades, even when you are driving your own vehicle.


Holly Heyser said...

Me thinks a sidearm in full view would be an asset as well.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Ah, but what happens after you are gone from your home?

Officials thought they were being prudent in evacuating 32,000 people, but as I wrote, I don't think that the police force had resources to protect all of those neighborhoods from opportunistic thieves.