DENVER (KDVR) — A little over 17 months after the Marshall Fire devastated communities across Boulder County, investigators released that there were two likely causes.
However, it was also announced that no criminal charges will be filed for either of the causes.
Insufficient or no evidence of crimes in either likely cause
District Attorney Michael Dougherty stressed that lack of evidence was the main reason charges were not filed.
“The law and ethical rules for prosecutors require us to only file charges when there’s evidence of a crime,” he said, “and when that evidence can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
Dougherty also went into the specifics for both likely causes to lay out exactly why criminal charges were not filed and where there was a lack of evidence of a crime or no evidence at all.
Residential burn started on Dec. 24
Six days before the Marshall Fire started, residents at 5325 Eldorado Dr. started a fire to dispose of scraps and tree branches.
The fire was buried after it was done, and firefighters checked the fire on the day it was started and determined it was extinguished properly. However, high winds on Dec. 30 blew up the buried embers, which caught oxygen and re-sparked.
All of the adults and children on the property were interviewed, and it was determined that no one started a fire on Dec. 30.
Additionally, Dougherty said criminal charges of arson require a person to start a fire either knowing it would cause a result or start it recklessly.
“There is no evidence to indicate that when they set the fire on Dec. 24 that they had any knowledge that after covering it with dirt that the embers would be uncovered by the wind, spark and cause a fire on Dec. 30,” he said.
Xcel Energy power line
For Xcel to be charged, Dougherty said there would have to be proof that it was reckless or negligent in the maintenance of the wire that likely became “unmoored” or unhooked and caused the fire to spark.
He said investigators and experts found no such proof.
“It appears that the extraordinarily high winds on Dec. 30 caused the power line to disconnect and contact other lines,” Dougherty said.
That caused “arcing” and hot particles to then release onto the grass, sparking the fire.
“There was no evidence of worn materials, shoddy construction or substandard conditions,” he said.
Dougherty also said there was an investigation into whether Xcel repaired the power line in the days following the fire in an effort to impede the investigation or hide anything.
He said that the investigation did not turn up any evidence of that and that the repairs seemed consistent with Xcel answering pleas from the community to repair lines and restore power as quickly as possible.