Public Safety

Monday Newscast, 7/27/15, 5:32 PM

Jul 27, 2015

Newscast for Monday, 7/27/15, 05:32 PM

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

A lot of dirt needs to get moved to repair the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo, and plans for the repairs are changing so that dirt can be put to use on other projects. Those changes may affect efforts to preserve historic sections of the murals painted on the levee.

Originally plans called for reducing the height of the levee by 12 feet in phases, but now other projects can use the dirt quicker than first thought. Pueblo Conservancy District consulting engineer Kim Kock said that means they need to keep moving forward.

Record-breaking rains leading to high water levels have prompted Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restrict access in some recreational areas. 

Boat ramps, shoreline access points and parking areas are limited at Lake Pueblo State Park. The department isn’t sure when they’ll reopen.

Near Lake George, the South Platte River is running usually high, resulting in the closure of Spinney Mountain State Park’s river access lot. The department is discouraging fishing along many areas of the river.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo says Colorado Springs received a record breaking 3.16 inches of rain Monday.  The old record, set more than a century ago in 1914, was 2.27 inches.  The record-breaking day comes after a record-breaking month of May, which, for the most part, removed southern Colorado from lingering drought conditions.

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for shootings, deaths, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds was signed into law on Wednesday. Previously schools had absolute immunity.

The law would cap damages at $900,000 for multiple injuries per incident. Governor Hickenlooper says the state has experienced its fair share of tragedies in schools and hopes the law will make students safer.


UPDATE 5:08 PM:  Watches and warnings continue to evolve as the weather system continues to move eastward.  A tornado watch remains in effect for much of southern and eastern Colorado, including Pueblo and El Paso Counties until 9:00 PM.  Flood warnings remain in effect for portions of El Paso, Pueblo, Otero and Bent Counties. Winter storm warnings are in effect for northeastern El Paso County, Teller County, and north into Douglas County, among other regions.

UPDATE: Vollmer has reopened. Tapadero and Green Mountain Rds. remain closed. 

El Paso County officials have closed several roads:


Colorado will soon have a felony DUI law on the books.  On the final day of the legislative session, the Senate passed House Bill 1043 [.pdf] to create a felony DUI for habitual drunk driving offenders. It passed the Senate 34-1.

Private landowners can now sign up for classes focusing on how to conduct safer pile burns. KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.

Those who complete the course become certified burners and will also be protected on a limited basis from civil liability.

"It’s not just a simple go out and light the match. There’s a lot of steps that go into prescribed fire,” said Mike Frary, Unit Chief for Prescribed Fire for the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.


A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for school shootings, death, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It passed on a vote of 10-3.

Currently public schools are not liable. Legislative leaders in both parties are sponsoring the change, spurred in part by the death of Claire Davis in 2013. Davis attended Arapahoe High School in Littleton when a fellow student shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

In this week's Capitol Conversation, Bente Birkeland takes a look at the policy debates ahead. She talked to Kristen Wyatt with the Associated Press and John Frank with the Denver Post about what they’ll be covering and some issues that do and don’t fall along party lines.

A debate on drones does not fall along party lines and will get a hearing in the Senate Tuesday.

Investigators have arrested a 44-year-old man in connection to an explosion last month outside a building that houses the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.  

Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy faces charges of arson and being a felon in possession of firearms. A search of Murphy’s home revealed seven guns and devices similar to the one used in the explosion earlier this year.  The U.S. Attorney’s office says that device was a road flare and pipe bomb near a container of gasoline.  No one was hurt in the explosion.


A bill to require background checks for volunteers and employees of youth sports clubs failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Opponents said the measure had too many gaps in it. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

In Colorado, roughly 6 million children play in youth sports clubs, ranging from soccer and baseball to swimming and basketball.  Supporters say these sports clubs attract sexual predators because of lax standards.


UPDATE: 01/29/15, 9:41 AM: CSFD released official details of the fire last night.  It burned a total of 5.92 acres, with five agencies responding: Colorado Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Utilities Wildland Team, El Paso County Wildland Team, Pike National Forest Fire, Broadmoor Fire Rescue.

UPDATE: 01/27/15, 5:29 PM:  CSFD spokesman Captain Steve Oswald says a juvenile's misuse of a lighter caused the fire.



Investigators have released a sketch of a man they say is connected to an explosion outside a building that includes the offices of the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.

The man is described as white, around 40 years old, and balding.  Investigators say he was in the area at the time of the bombing and appeared to have carried something down an alley and returned to his truck empty handed.

Special Agent Thomas Ravenelle heads the FBI Denver field office and says they’re still not speculating on motive.

El Paso County Public Health officials say someone who traveled to Colorado Springs last month has tested positive for measles.  The case may be connected to nine other measles cases in two other states where the patients visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in mid-December. 

Local officials have released statements in response to Tuesday's explosion outside a building that houses the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP, as well as a business.  

A joint statement distributed by the Colorado Springs Police Department comes from local law enforcement agencies and Colorado Springs NAACP President Henry Allen, Jr.:


The FBI is looking for a person of interest in an explosion outside the local chapter of the NAACP in Colorado Springs.  KRCC's Andrea Chalfin reports.

The device exploded Tuesday morning outside the building that houses the offices of the civil rights organization and one other business.  A gasoline can was placed next to the device, but did not explode. There were no injuries, and minor damage to the building.

Amy Sanders with the FBI says they’re investigating.  

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Demolition work has begun to remove the top 12 feet of a section of the Arkansas River Levee in Pueblo. It’s part of the first phase of a project to repair the aging structure and meet FEMA flood control guidelines.

Heavy equipment moves dirt and concrete as the contractors build a ramp to access the top of the levee. Part of the pedestrian path near the work area has been closed for safety reasons. 

Consulting engineer Kim Kock says they expect the first critical section to be complete by mid February, despite the delay in beginning work.

Four Denver police officers were hit by a car while watching a high school demonstration protesting last week’s grand jury verdict in Ferguson.

The decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson sparked demonstrations across the country, including in Colorado Springs.  

In Denver, nearly 1,000 East High School students walked out of class Wednesday and marched to the capitol. Students say the actual march was not planned.   

Still, officers shut down streets so students could cross.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The start of a massive repair project on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is being delayed until December due to historic preservation concerns and some delays in the funding.

The project’s consulting engineer Kim Kock says the state historic preservation officer has said the levee could be deemed historic because it was constructed in response to the deadly 1921 floods and used methods of that time period.

Investigators say there’s not enough evidence to file charges in connection with last year’s devastating Black Forest Fire.

The Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management, Fire, and Police Departments are conducting an evacuation drill for residents of the Pulpit Rock neighborhood Saturday.  KRCC's Rachel Gonchar reports.

The Pulpit Rock neighborhood is located in the city’s wildland urban interface and includes University Park and Sunset Mesa.

CSPD Officer David Husted says participating residents can expect a knock at their doors and instructions on what to do and where to go. He also said this area is a new focus for first responders.

Pueblo Conservancy District

The levee that protects much of downtown Pueblo from potential floodwaters in the Arkansas River is about to get a major facelift. After levees failed in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA made a push for levee certification. And for Pueblo’s aging Arkansas River levee this means an estimated 15 million dollar repair project and the destruction of its famous mural. The alternative is downtown properties would have to buy flood insurance. The process has brought to the forefront structural deficiencies.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is planning a prescribed burn of 180 acres starting Monday.

The goal is to minimize fuel levels, mitigate wildfire risk, and to help protect the communities surrounding the monument. The fuels are mainly ponderosa pine and grass.

Florissant Park Ranger Jeff Wolin says there are specific conditions that need to be met before the project can start.

Kate Perdoni / KRCC

It’s been over a year since the East Peak fire in Huerfano County challenged the largely rural area’s resources. It came at a time when other fires were burning throughout the state, including the devastating Black Forest fire. Huerfano County’s volunteer fire protection district was the first responding agency to the southern Colorado blaze. KRCC’s Kate Perdoni reports on the challenges of the volunteer agency in the wake of the East Peak fire.

In many parts of Colorado when you dial 9-1-1 to report a fire, the firefighters who arrive to extinguish it are volunteers. These firefighters have other jobs, and serve half of the state’s population. But Colorado has an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers, leaving many communities at risk.

Fort Carson officials are encouraging personnel on the base to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior after two shots were heard on the Mountain Post Monday night, prompting increased security measures. Military police are investigating the reports that say the shots were heard near the northwest perimeter of the base just before 8:00 PM.  Officials say this was not an active shooter event, and there’s no immediate danger. No suspects are in custody.

Colorado's Volunteer Firefighting Corps Face Staffing Issues

Sep 2, 2014
Joe Mahoney / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

Volunteer firefighters protect about half of Colorado’s residents, with solely volunteer departments being responsible for about 70 percent of the state’s land surface.

And they are significantly understaffed.

The Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association estimates that Colorado is short 3,500 volunteers in meeting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. That would require an increase of more than 40 percent to the present force. 

Fort Carson is conducting a full-scale crisis exercise Tuesday and Wednesday.  The training is expected to feature a simulated car bomb near Prussman Chapel on the Mountain Post.

Those on base can expect road closures from 5 am until 3 pm Tuesday, specifically Prussman between Berkeley and McGrath, and Porter Street. McGrath will be down to one lane for about a block.  Detours may also be in place.

The annual exercise tests emergency response procedures.  Previous simulations include chemical spills, terrorist attacks, and winter weather.