According to a fire department report obtained by The Denver Post, firefighters responded to a trash fire on the property, six days before the rapid-moving wildfire caused a blaze of destruction in Boulder County, investigating the Marshall Fire. has been the center of.
At 11:53 a.m. on December 24, a concerned passerby reported a fire to authorities at 5325 Eldorado Springs Drive, a compound occupied by members of the Twelve Tribes religious sect. The report shows that the Mountain View Fire Rescue crew investigated the fire that day and left it without extinguishing it because it was not illegal.
Eldorado Springs resident Claire Tone, who reported the fire in the trash, said she told officers she saw a large, unattended fire on the property and was concerned because of dry and windy conditions that day.
“The flames were long and I didn’t see any humans around,” she said.
The Twelve Tribes compound is now being investigated as officials try to find out where the deadly December 30 wildfire started. Boulder County Sheriff’s investigators closed the property and issued a search warrant on the premises, where a Video of witness on the day of martial fire Showed the burning shed.
Investigators have not ascertained the cause or start of the fire and it is not clear whether Marshall’s fire started at the Twelve Tribes compound. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pele said the wildfire started somewhere in that neighborhood, but cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
According to a fire department report, following a call from a passerby on Christmas Eve, firefighters from Mountain View Fire Rescue arrived at the Twelve Tribes compound to search for a man burning garbage in a dirt field. The report said the fire could be seen from the road.
“He said he would burn rail ties for the next few hours,” the report read. “They also had a front-end loader and a water source installed for control measures.”
According to the National Weather Service in Boulder, there were no burn restrictions or wind warnings in the area that day. The Twelve Tribes property is on the east side of Colorado 93, beyond the boundaries of the Boulder County fire ban, which covers the western half of the county and ends on the west side of Colorado 93—the property just across the street from Twelve Tribes .
Just six days after Tone reported the fire broke out in the trash, he saw the start of the martial fire, she said.
“When I saw the fire, I realized that what I was seeing was exactly where I had seen the flames a week earlier,” she said.
The Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and burned 6,000 acres in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder counties, driven by hurricane-force winds from the east. One man died and one woman is missing.
Dave Maggio, a five-year neighbor of the Twelve Tribes property, told The Post three days after the martial fire that members of the religious sect regularly burned at the property and that fires had gotten out of control in the past.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office initially declined to make public any records about his visits to the Twelve Tribes compound in the past, but has since reversed course. On Saturday, the sheriff’s office released reports showing that deputies had been called for issues related to fires or burns at the property seven times since 2014.
Then, on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office released a list of 30 calls to service on campus between 2018 and December 29, 2021. That list included calls for trespassing, medical problems, welfare checks, children’s issues, parking and noise complaints – as well as 12 calls about controlled burns.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that “control burn” calls are made by property owners to alert officials about planned fires. To show the record, most calls about controlled burning in the Twelve Tribes were made by a person associated with the group in the spring and early summer of 2020.
The call list also shows that a passerby called authorities about a “non-structure” fire on the premises in April 2019. The response to that call was prioritized as an emergency, the records show.
Records released by the sheriff’s office do not include a passerby’s call about a fire in the trash on Christmas Eve. Jeff Webb, deputy chief of Mountain View Fire Rescue, said the incident was entered in dispatch records under the wrong address, and confirmed Tuesday that firefighters responded at the Twelve Tribes compound.
On the day of the Marshall fire, Boulder County was under a strong wind warning from the National Weather Service, agency meteorologist Greg Hanson said Tuesday. The area was not subject to a formal red flag warning, but in Boulder County, burning is prohibited whenever there is a high wind warning.
The National Weather Service did not issue a red flag warning on December 30 because the relative humidity was not low enough to qualify for that warning, Hanson said. The relative humidity must be 15% or less to issue a red flag warning; 30 it was between 20% and 30%, Hanson said.
Hanson said the moisture requirement could change in the wake of the Marshall Fire.
“We are starting to go back and look into that and contact our fire partners and make an allowance for the extremely high wind,” he said. “It could be a change that we make.”
Denver Post reporter Conrad Swanson contributed to this report.
Updated Jan 11, 2022 at 6:15 am: This story has been updated to include an on-the-record account from a source who previously spoke on condition of anonymity after the source waived that condition.