Houseguest says he believes Marshall Fire started at a neighboring property

Problem Solvers

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A houseguest who captured video of a blazing shed on his neighbor’s property ahead of the devastating Marshall Fire said he believes that’s where the fire started before engulfing and destroying hundreds of homes in the Boulder County area.

“I noticed that there was smoke coming from the neighbor’s property and I looked out there and I noticed that the shed just started catching fire,” said Mike Zoltowski, who has been staying at his friend’s home near Marshall Drive and the 5300 block of Eldorado Springs Drive, for several weeks.

“Immediately, once I saw the flames, I knew this could be catastrophic,” he said.

Zoltowski told the FOX31 Problem Solvers he noticed a fire truck pull up to the area, and a fire crew attempted to put out the shed fire.

“As soon as I turned around and came back, they were gone,” Zoltowski said. “And that’s when I realized something is seriously wrong here because the shed was still burning.”

He described debris flying everywhere and the field was on fire.

“It seemed that there was another fire that started at the corner of Marshall and Broadway,” Zoltowski said. “Once that happened, that made me very nervous because all of a sudden, the entire front of the house, that entire valley, just went up in flames.”

Zoltowski said he also noticed people on the property, one of whom appeared to be injured. He said he tried to shield the group of three from the wind while they transported the person to safety.

“There was no time to ask anything,” he said. “I was fearful of the weather and the situation and obviously, the fire because that can change very quickly. I didn’t have time to ask them exactly what had happened.”

The FOX31 Problem Solvers attempted to reach the property owners but so far have been unsuccessful.

The address is linked to a religious group called Twelve Tribes. The Boulder County Sheriff confirmed Monday that the group is part of his ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire.

“We haven’t eliminated or honed in on any one specific thing. It’s an open investigation. We’re going to do it right. It’s going to take some time,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said. He said the sheriff’s office is also getting support from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Zoltowski said he watched a “slew of police and fire detectives” come to the areas in the days following the devastating blaze. “I would say there were about 30 cars there on a regular basis, evaluating the situation,” he said.

Zoltowski, ironically, works for a business called JustBioFiber, which is working to develop and build fire-resistant homes using hemp and recycled plastic.

“It really feels like it is the epicenter of the climate change, and you know, I think that we have to figure out a better way to live with the environment,” he said.

Another witness, Danny Mannix, said he believes he saw the point of origin too. He said he was traveling in the same area, returning to his home in Eldorado Canyon from a trip to Costco.

“I’ve gone back there with the forensic people to show them where I saw the actual genesis of the fire,” he told the Problem Solvers. “You can see a telephone pole and a dangling wire 10 feet from the house.”

Mannix described the fire he saw as a “10-by-10 box of flames. It was just a blow torch.”

Pelle said the telecom line “shouldn’t be capable of starting a fire.”

Pelle said he initially thought a downed electrical line may have been the cause of the fire because he heard a crew report a downed powerline over scanner traffic. After further investigation, however, investigators determined the downed line was a telecom line.

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