Six months after the Marshall Fire swept through eastern Boulder County and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, investigators have yet to identify the cause of the fire.

The fire started near Marshall Road and Colo. 93 on Dec. 30 before burning 6,000 acres through open space and Superior and Louisville.

Two people were killed in the fire.

In the months since, officials have been looking into powerlines, human activity and even a long-smoldering coal mine as possible causes of the fire.

Investigators wrapped up the first phase of the investigation in January, including evidence gathering, witness interviews and reviewing photos and videos of the incident.

It is the second phase of the investigation, in which that information is set to be analyzed by experts and labs, that the sheriff’s office has said from the beginning could take several months.

“It is still ongoing, and we’re still waiting on reports and information from forensic analysis,” Boulder County sheriff’s Division Chief Curtis Johnson said.

Johnson said because the sheriff’s office is waiting on outside sources for information, they do not have a timeline on when the investigation might be able to move forward.

“Since we’re waiting on people external to the sheriff’s office, we don’t have a timeline on when their work will be completed,” Johnson said.

In addition to the usual hurdles of investigating a wildfire of this size, complicating matters in the investigation is that officials are looking into the possibility there were multiple sources and starts to the fire.

The sheriff’s office said the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office has also been involved in case criminal charges are warranted.

“As (Boulder County) Sheriff (Joe) Pelle has noted, this horrific fire requires a thorough investigation,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “The sheriff’s office has worked with other law enforcement agencies and fire experts. Once their investigation and analysis is complete, the sheriff’s office will present their findings to our office. The District Attorney’s Office will then carefully evaluate the evidence and analysis by the sheriff’s office and fire investigators. Our role will be to determine if any criminal charges are appropriate.”

Given what is at stake, Johnson said a thorough investigation was critical. Some residents have already begun filing lawsuits, and others are sure to follow if a cause is determined.

“I think a good investigation into something as significant as the Marshall Fire takes time, and we want to make sure that we have investigated every possibility as thoroughly as possible before we finalize an investigation,” Johnson said.

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Mitchell Byars
2022-06-25 14:55:26
Boulder Daily Camera
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