Sheriff’s office says the Marshall fire investigation could be completed in early 2023

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Boulder County Sheriff’s Office
A screenshot from body-worn camera footage recorded by police and other first responders at the Marshall fire.

Authorities are in the final stages of their investigation into the cause of the Marshall fire and could release their findings early next year, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

The probe into the cause of the wildfire, which killed two people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes on Dec. 30, 2021, has generated more than 200 tips and required investigators to examine physical evidence and hundreds of photos and videos, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

Officials with the sheriff’s office, which is leading the investigation with assistance from state and federal authorities and outside experts, said they were considering nearly a dozen possible sources for the blaze. Authorities said that those sources range from lightning, fireworks and campfires to underground coal mine fires, burning debris and sparks from electrical equipment.

The sheriff’s office declined CPR News’ interview request.

The wildfire, worsened by climate change, started on the outskirts of Boulder County and was driven by 100 mph wind gusts through dry, drought-parched grasslands into suburban neighborhoods in Louisville and Superior. The fire resulted in more than $2 billion in insurance claims and is now considered the most destructive in Colorado history.

The first caller to report the Marshall fire and the first firefighter to respond told dispatchers a power line was hanging across a road. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle initially suggested power lines were the likely cause, but he quickly became less certain as other possible origins emerged. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility and power provider in the area, has denied its equipment had any role in sparking the fire.

In November, a Colorado judge rejected the utility’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit blaming it for causing or contributing to the blaze. 

Shortly after the fire, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the investigation, and authorities focused on a property owned by a fringe Christian sect as a possible ignition source. Local fire crews and other witnesses reported fires and open burning at or near the property days before and possibly around the time the blaze is thought to have started.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s office on Friday also released a cache of video of body-worn camera footage recorded by police and other first responders. The department withheld video footage recorded east of Cherryvale Road, according to the agency’s statement.