DENVER — An official cause of the Marshall Fire, Colorado’s most destructive wildfire, is still not known nearly a year after it started. However, some believe power lines maintained by Xcel Energy are to blame and filed a class action lawsuit against the utility company in March.
On Saturday, a Boulder District Court judge denied a motion filed by Xcel to dismiss that lawsuit, stating in the order that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged negligence. Xcel Energy sought to obtain dismissal of the class action lawsuit on grounds that it was unfounded.
The plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit filed in Boulder County on March 31, 2022, are Eldorado Enterprises Inc., Eldorado Liquor Inc., and John and Jane Doe.
The lawsuit alleges that sparks from an Xcel power line near Marshall Road started a ground fire in the Eldorado Springs-Marshall Mesa neighborhood on the morning of Dec. 30, 2021.
That fire, the lawsuit alleges, spread quickly due to hurricane-force winds that day and grew into the 6,000-acre blaze that destroyed about 1,000 homes and businesses in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County. The fire is blamed for at least one death.
Several theories as to the exact cause of the fire have circulated in the past year, but nothing official has been released. Downed power lines have not been ruled out, but Xcel Energy crews did not find any power lines in the area, according to Boulder County officials.
The utility company has said that there is no evidence linking its equipment to the fire. In a statement sent to Denver7 in March, the company said:
“We’re aware of the filing and we’re currently reviewing it. As you know, the cause of the fire is still under investigation and we continue to work with authorities. Our own investigation shows that our equipment in the area of the fire was properly maintained and inspected, consistent with our high standards, and we have not seen evidence that our equipment ignited the fire.”
In March, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said the investigation into the cause and origin of the Marshall Fire is expected to take several months. Once the investigation is complete, detectives will present the evidence to the district attorney's office, who will determine if charges are appropriate.
If the civil suit is successful, Xcel could be responsible for the more than $2 billion in losses the fire caused.