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Additional 2 dozen plaintiffs sue Xcel over Marshall Fire origin

BOULDER COUNTY — Nearly 30 new plaintiffs have joined the growing list of litigants who are suing  Xcel Energy Inc. over the utility’s alleged role in the origins of the devastating Marshall Fire in late December 2021. 

The plaintiffs, whose group includes a number of unnamed minors, are neighbors in Louisville, many of whom live on or near Eldorado Lane.

The lawsuit comes about three months after Boulder County Sheriff’s Office investigators determined that the Marshall Fire, which killed two people, had two root causes: high winds that uncovered a smoldering, days-old fire at the residence of the Twelve Tribes religious group, members of which live at a compound at 5325 Eldorado Springs Drive in Boulder County, and a malfunctioning Xcel powerline that became “unmoored” during the windy day on Dec. 30, 2021.

Residents of the Twelve Tribes home burned material in a yard on Dec. 24, a week prior to the start of the Marshall fire, buried it and assumed that the flames were extinguished, investigators said. 

Twelve Tribes is an international organization with several thousand members that has been accused by past members of labor exploitation, child abuse and racist teachings.

Soon after the high winds on Dec. 30, 2021, transformed the smoldering material into a blaze at Eldorado Springs Drive, “hot particles discharged from an Xcel Energy powerline” several thousand feet away from the initial fire and started a new blaze in a grassy area,” Boulder County Sheriff Curtis Johnson said last month. Investigators found that this line malfunction was likely not related to the Eldorado Springs Drive residential fire; however, the two blazes quickly converged and together started the Marshall Fire.

Not only was Xcel at least partially responsible for the origin of the blaze, the lawsuit claims that the utility hampered investigators’ efforts to get to the bottom of the Marshall Fire’s causes.

“The BCSO’s work was substantially delayed by Xcel, which repeatedly sought to

obstruct the investigation,” said the lawsuit, filed last week in Boulder County District Court. “… It took months of dogged research, but we now know that just minutes after the fire started, an Xcel lineman texted his supervisor to say, ‘I think our lines may have started this fire east of El Dorado.’ If only Xcel had been this candid and forthcoming all along.” 

The lawsuit is Abrams et al. v. Xcel Energy Inc., case number 2023CV30664, filed Sept. 15, 2023, in Boulder County District Court.

Source: BizWest