More than a dozen homeowners who were evacuated during the Valley fire returned after the mandatory absences to find their homes had been burglarized, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

A total of 14 homeowners reported being the victims of burglary, Lt. Steve Brooks said.

Eight of the break-ins were reported in Hidden Valley Lake. Four were in the Middletown area and one each occurred in Whispering Pines and Loch Lomond.

Brooks said the number of reported cases could climb.

“I hope not, but it would not surprise me,” he said.

In one instance, the suspected burglar, after breaking into the home, made his getaway in a car that was parked in the garage. Brooks said the thief spray-painted the vehicle to make it look like it belonged to a law enforcement official.

At least six people suspected of looting or planning to loot the homes of fire evacuees have been arrested since the fire broke out Sept. 12.

Brooks said a number of police agencies from across the Bay Area joined in patrols of evacuated neighborhoods in an effort to curtail looting. But that wasn’t enough to deter all crime.

“There are roads that aren’t even on maps,” he said. “If someone’s familiar with the area, I’m sure they know ways to get in and out.”