About 60 people from two utility companies have been working since Monday to restore natural gas service shut off in the northeast Colorado Springs area affected by the Waldo Canyon wildfire.
Colorado Springs Utilities and Xcel Energy are sending crews to 4,200 undamaged homes in Mountain Shadows where the gas was turned off as a precaution. Restoring service is not a simple matter. Crews must check meters for leaks, bleed air from gas lines, reignite pilot lights and conduct safety tests.
Kevin Perrigo, an operations superintendent with Colorado Springs Utilities, said about 600 homes remain on the service restoration list. Slowing the process somewhat, he said, are homeowners who apparently have yet to return home from evacuation orders that were lifted this week. Homeowners must grant permission for crews to work on their property.
"This is the biggest service interrupting we've ever had, no doubt," said Perrigo. "I don't think we've ever had anything of this magnitude. It's been a challenge. This is one of those things you can't practice for."
Turning the gas back on doesn't return every life to normal, however. Mark Tatum, who lives on Ashton Park Place in Mountain Shadows, said his family still can't live in their home because of the smell.
"We still have a lot of smoke smell in the house," he said. "Just being in (there) kind of gives you a headache."
Tatum said his family is temporarily living with friends until a machine in his home removes the odor and allows him to return.