Reward Offered in Thefts From Colorado Evacuees

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Colorado Springs Police Department will offer a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons who burglarized evacuated homes at the Waldo Canyon Fire.

The money was made available thanks to an anonymous donation, said Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.

Authorities said they have had at least 22 burglary reports in the fire zone. There are also 60 reports of evacuees' cars being broken into while they were staying at nearby hotels.

Detectives continue to put together leads on finding suspects, Carey said.

"I think this $50,000 will actually help this and make some arrests," Carey said.

District Attorney Dan May said a 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."

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the fire continues. During a media briefing Thursday morning, Jeff Cramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, said the point of origin of the fire has been found, although investigators were not prepared to release it publically.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss details," Cramer said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but now investigators know where to look, Cramer said.

Meanwhile, some 250 residents forced to flee their homes from the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's history were allowed to return home Wednesday.

Wednesday, evacuation orders were lifted at 5 p.m. for homes in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.

The Mountain Shadows neighborhood was the worst hit when the fire exploded last week, destroying 346 homes.

Officials plan to allow more residents in to view their homes Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., mainly to allow insurance representatives to assess property.

Overall, the 28-square-mile Waldo Canyon Fire is 90 percent contained.

Incident Commander Rich Harvey said the focus Thursday was on the northeast corner of the fire, which is burning in "incredibly rugged country."

A hot shot crew was sent in Wednesday and reported back the terrain was "goat rock country," and very difficult to move around in, Harvey said.

Firefighters plan to "pound it" using helicopter water drops to put out hot spots, he said.

The area is under 24-hour surveillance and when no smoke is seen and no heat detected, firefighters will be able to say the fire is 100 percent contained, Harvey said.

Wednesday's rain helped firefighters increase containment around the fire, but small hot spots remain inside the perimeter.

Harvey said firefighters would patrol the inside of the fire putting out the hot spots in the coming days.

Full containment could come as early as this weekend.

Some Evacuation Orders Lifted For Mountain Shadows

For those homeowners allowed to go home Wednesday, there is still considerable risk in the area, firefighters said.

"Residents are advised to prepare for flash flooding in burn areas by staying alert to flash flood watches and warnings and avoiding low-lying areas and places that are known to flood. Residents should not cross streaming water," a Colorado Springs Fire Department spokesperson said in a news release.

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