DENVER (KDVR) — Two dozen people have filed a lawsuit against Xcel Energy saying the company’s power lines and equipment were a “substantial factor in the cause, origin, and continuation of the deadly Marshall Fire.”
The lawsuit was filed Thursday shortly after a news conference, when the Boulder County sheriff and 20th Judicial district attorney announced that an Xcel power line “likely” caused one of the two fires that merged into the Marshall Fire.
This initial fire began near the Marshall Mesa Trailhead at the intersection of highways 93 and 107, about 2,000 feet from the other initial fire that began on the property of 5325 Eldorado Springs Dr.
Investigators said they believe an Xcel power line was knocked by strong winds and came in contact with another piece of equipment, causing electrical arcing and hot particles to discharge and ignite a fire.
The DA said there will be no criminal charges because recklessness or negligence cannot be proven based on evidence. But in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim negligence is partially responsible.
Lawsuit claims negligence from Xcel
“Defendant Xcel was negligent in its operation of its power lines and equipment in that Defendant unreasonably failed to maintain, monitor and/or supervise its property in a manner so as to prevent an arcing event from causing a fire,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant as also negligent in failing to immediately contact law enforcement and fire prevention authorities and in allowing the powerline to continue creating sparks until a passerby called the authorities.”
The lawsuit says that by the nature of its business, Xcel has an expectation for upkeep that could have prevented this.
“The inherent danger in Xcel’s construction of its Electrical Systems materialized in an arcing/electrical event that caused the Marshall Fire, which damaged Plaintiffs’ property,” the lawsuit says, before going on to claim that Xcel failed to “maintain, repair and/or replace the structural integrity of its Electrical Systems.”
Several other fires, including the Overland Fire in 2003 in Boulder and the Cabin Creek Fire near Georgetown in 2007, were cited as a pattern for Xcel.
“Because of Xcel’s corporate policy of putting profits over public safety, Plaintiffs and others like them have had their homes, businesses, ranches, and fires damaged or destroyed, lost income, money, and business, suffered significant expenses and emotional trauma, and will spend years trying to rebuild their lives and livelihoods,” the lawsuit says.
What Xcel is being sued for
The 20-plus plaintiffs are asking for financial compensation for damage to property, loss of wages, and other expenses incurred as a result of the fire as well as physical injury, mental suffering emotional distress and more.
A separate class action lawsuit includes at least 50 plaintiffs, according to attorney James Avery, and that number is expected to grow.
“I think today’s news solidified our lawsuit and blew up Xcel Energy’s attempts to evade,” Avery said.
In a statement, Xcel denied blame.
“We have reviewed our maintenance records and believe the system was properly maintained,” the statement said.