Sheriff: Investigation into cause of Colorado wildfire could take months

Officials with FBI, USFS, ATF all aiding in investigation
marshall fire debris home search
Posted at 4:57 PM, Jan 03, 2022

DENVER, Colo. (KMGH) – The investigation into the origin and cause of the Marshall Fire, which burned more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Boulder County, Colorado on Thursday, could take weeks or months but is “in full force and full swing,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Monday.

Assisting local investigators are agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and special investigators from the U.S. Forest Service who have expertise in investigating wildfires in the wildland urban interface, Pelle said. A warrant was served over the weekend in connection with the investigation, Pelle said Saturday.

But as the community and journalists press to figure out if a person or people were responsible for starting the fire that spread quickly across more than 6,000 acres in southern Boulder County, fanned by extremely high winds, Pelle said people might even lose their patience with him because he will be sure the integrity of the investigation remains intact.

“It’s going to take a while. And we’re going to get the right people with the right expertise. The snow’s going to melt. We’re going to be able to see better. Things are going to happen,” Pelle said. “So, we’re going to do it well and we’re going to take our time and be methodical because the stakes are huge.”

Pelle confirmed that a Twelve Tribes compound near Highway 93 and Marshall Road, near the start of the fire and from where witnesses have provided video of some of the earliest moments of the fire, was indeed part of the investigation on the point of origin, but he said other areas nearby were under investigation as well.

“We haven’t eliminated or honed in on any one specific thing,” Pelle said. “It’s an open investigation. We’re going to do it right. It’s going to take some time.”

When reached Monday, a spokesperson for the Twelve Tribes referred questions from Scripps station KMGH about the fire investigation to the sheriff’s office.

Pelle said he had seen dozens of people meeting with the local and federal investigators over the past several days for interviews but reiterated that it could take weeks or months before investigators could say for sure what started the fire and where it started. He said that was far more important than making a hasty determination.

Pelle also again reiterated that Xcel Energy and local investigators had found only a telecommunications line at the area where firefighters originally thought they had seen a downed power line, which led him and other officials in the initial hours after the fire to say might have been the cause.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he supports investigators taking the time necessary to get a full understanding of the fire’s cause.

“What’s most important is getting it right. So, whether it takes a week, a month, or two months, getting it right is the most important,” Polis said. “…There’s no one in this state better than Sheriff Pelle to get it right. And that’s exactly what they’re going to do in the coming days and weeks, and if needed, months.”

Two residents are still missing, officials said Monday, but crews are working with cadaver dogs and with small tools to sift through the damaged homes where those people were last known to be amid debris that was subject to extremely high temperatures.

This story was originally published by Blair Miller on