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Fire crews continued to make steady progress over the weekend against the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs, now the most destructive fire in Colorado history. National Guard troops were also deployed to help local police get things back to normal. The fire has now burned a total of 17,827 acres and is 55% contained as of last night. A total of 1,581 firefighters remain on scene. Two bodies were found in the ruins of one house with almost 350 homes destroyed in the fire. The victims’ names have not been released. The approximately 10 people who had not been accounted for previously have now been located. About 10,000 people still remain evacuated. Authorities are saying that some of those won’t be allowed to return home for 4 to 6 weeks due to utility and infrastructure damage caused by the fire. More than 150 National Guard soldiers and airmen are helping Colorado Springs Police staff roadblocks and patrol streets. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire. The fire has cost a total of $8.8 million to battle thus far.
Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane on Thursday rejected a plea deal for Timothy John Vanderwerff, 63, of Monte Vista. Vanderwerff admitted to investigators that he downloaded more than 900 files containing images of minors in pornographic situations onto his home computer. In the plea bargain, Vanderwerff agreed to plead guilty to one count of possessing child pornography in exchange for a prosecutor dropping another count of the same crime and a count of receiving child pornography. The plea agreement would have lowered the potential maximum prison sentence from 20 years to 10 years, and it was the reduced maximum sentence that Judge Kane objected to. Vanderwerff pleaded guilty in July 2010 in state court in Rio Grande County to sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl who was an acquaintance. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 10 years probation. Judge Kane set the current case for trial.
The Del Norte School Board last Thursday passed a resolution to place a mill levy override on this November’s ballot. The district is asking voters for 12 mills for the district, which would increase the average property owner’s taxes by approximately $101 a year. The increase would generate a total of $1.161 million for the district, according to the resolution. The district currently collects 20 mills, which is considerably less than surrounding districts for various reasons including state regulations and new building projects. The proposed mill levy override does not have a termination date, would fluctuate annually and would not exceed 25% of the district’s total yearly funding. It would also readjust with supplemental living costs and assessments, and would be deposited into the district’s general fund and expended for educational purposes.
Saying that they’re eager for Fort Carson work, twelve business leaders from Las Animas County met with Fort Carson leaders last week to discuss bringing more contracting jobs to the Trinidad area. Those attending expressed disappointment that the talks didn’t draw more small businesses. According to a Fort Carson official, a decision was made in 2005 to give an Alaskan company a 10-year contract to provide support for Fort Carson and for the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. Local businesses were shut out and now they are hoping that they can pick up that business once again when the 10-year contract runs out.
Two people walking their dogs had a close encounter with a mountain lion at about 11pm last Monday on the Rio Grande levee in the vicinity of Adams State College in Alamosa. Mountain lions are typically active from dusk to dawn and residents should avoid the areas surrounding the Rio Grande during these times. If you do encounter a lion, you should stand your ground, make lots of noise and try to look as large as you can. Never run from the animal. Any sightings should be reported immediately by calling the Alamosa Police Department at 911 or 719-589-5807.