Legal & Courts  December 1, 2023

Marshall Fire fallout continues with four new suits filed against Xcel

BOULDER COUNTY — In four separate lawsuits, about a dozen individual plaintiffs sued Xcel Energy Inc. this week, alleging negligence before and during the December 2021 Marshall Fire, the origination of which investigators have determined Xcel to be partially responsible.

Attorneys with Edelson PC represent the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, filed Tuesday in Boulder County District Court. 

“Xcel Energy had a duty to properly and safely construct, inspect, repair, maintain, manage, and/or operate its power lines and/or other electrical equipment. This duty includes implementing policies and safeguards to protect the public from the risk of fire — particularly during adverse weather conditions — and taking action when such conditions arise, such as through a public safety power shutoff,” the complaint said.

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The utility “knows what weather conditions and other factors contribute to high fire risk and the steps needed to mitigate the risk of, and prevent, fire from igniting. Yet Xcel failed to take appropriate actions to prevent the Marshall Fire,” according to the lawsuit.

These new plaintiffs join several hundred others who have filed lawsuits against Xcel in the roughly six months since 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 this summer.

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 nearby grassy area,” Boulder County Sheriff Curtis Johnson said when the investigation report was released. 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.

Officials said they do not plan to file charges against any person or company.

Xcel, which has repeatedly declined to comment on the recent lawsuits, told BizWest this summer that it disagrees with the conclusion of the Marshall Fire investigation.

The lawsuits are: Ginsburg et al v. Xcel Energy Inc et al, Boulder County District Court case number 2023CV030867; Ruben et al v. Xcel Energy Inc et al, Boulder County District Court case number 2023CV030868; Armstrong et al v. Xcel Energy Inc et al, Boulder County District Court case number 2023CV030870; Eisenhower et al v. Xcel Energy Inc et al, Boulder County District Court case number 2023CV030871.

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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