Cause of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire released

Sheriff Joe Pelle says they’ve located a man who was reported missing, ‘alive and well.’ The...
Sheriff Joe Pelle says they’ve located a man who was reported missing, ‘alive and well.’ The Sheriff says search crews are actively looking for those two remaining missing people.(KKTV shot video)
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:23 AM MDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:44 PM MDT
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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - On Thursday, authorities in Colorado announced the likely causes of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire.

The Boulder County Sheriff explained they learned the blaze was comprised of two different fires. One started at a residential home in which the homeowner was trying to burn yard waste about six days before the fire burned out of control. The original fire was reportedly covered by dirt on the property, but it eventually spread on Dec. 30, 2021, helping fuel the Marshall Fire.

The second fire was likely started by a powerline that belonged to Xcel, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff said at the press conference that underground coal fires could not be ruled out as a third possible contributing factor to the Marshall Fire, but also said “investigators developed no evidence of elevated underground fire activity that could have reduced surface temperatures capable of starting the second fire.”

The two fires joined and destroyed more than 1,000 homes at the end of 2021 in Boulder County. Two people died in the fire.

The DA announced no charges would be filed because there is no proof of criminal activity.

11 News reached out to Xcel Energy for comment, and a representative for the company gave the following statement:

Our thoughts are with the families and communities impacted by the devastating wildfire in Boulder County. We agree with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office report that the Marshall Fire started as a result of an ignition on a property previously reported to be affiliated with an entity called the Twelve Tribes, and that this ignition had nothing to do with Xcel Energy’s powerlines. The Sheriff’s report cites several potential causes for a second ignition near the Marshall Mesa Trailhead that started roughly an hour after the first fire. We believe the second fire burned into an area already burned by the fire from the first ignition, and did not cause damage to any homes or businesses. We strongly disagree with any suggestion that Xcel Energy’s powerlines caused the second ignition, which according to the report started 80 to 110 feet away from Xcel Energy’s powerlines in an area with underground coal fire activity. Xcel Energy did not have the opportunity to review and comment on the analyses relied on by the Sheriff’s Office and believes those analyses are flawed and their conclusions are incorrect.  We have reviewed our maintenance records and believe the system was properly maintained. We operate and maintain our electric system consistent with leading energy service practices and we’re proud of our employees and the work they do to deliver safe, reliable and clean energy to our communities. As members of the Boulder community, we will continue to support our neighbors in this recovery.”

You can watch the news conference at the top of this article.

Click here for more from the sheriff’s office, including documents of interest.