DENVER – The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control has asked for a team of local, state and federal investigators to put together a report on the conditions that caused the Marshall Fire in Boulder County late last month and the emergency response to the fire.
The DFPC requested a Facilitated Learning Analysis for the Dec. 30 fire – a review that originated with the U.S. military and which was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service to look into certain incidents and learn what happened in order to make possible changes in the future.
The analysis was ordered as the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office continues to look into the cause of the fire, a spokesperson confirmed Friday afternoon. Earlier Friday, 9News reported the sheriff’s office was investigating whether an underground coal fire might be responsible for the start of the fire.
“We are investigating any and all potential causes of the fire including coal mines in the area, power lines, human activity, etc.,” said sheriff’s office spokesperson Carrie Haverfield in an emailed statement. “We are working diligently with our investigation partners to ensure the outcome of the investigation is thorough and accurate. We know our community members want to know what happened and we are doing everything we can to make that happen.”
The FLA team, meanwhile, will consist of members of the DFPC, Forest Service and municipal emergency response agencies, and the DFPC will determine the scope of the review of the fire. But according to the division, the team will interview first responders and dispatchers who volunteer to talk about their experiences during the fire.
That will help provide lessons about how the various agencies coordinated in responding to the fire, the communication between them, and how they were mobilized as the fire quickly blew through southern Boulder County.
“The information collected will be woven together to provide an overview of what occurred and identify lessons learned,” states a fact sheet about the FLA. “The team will provide a final report of lessons learned that can be used to educate responders and improve future performance.”
After several weeks of conducting the interviews, the team will put together the report, which will also include information on weather patterns, geography and other climatological and meteorological factors that caused the fire the behave the way it did.
The DFPC said the FLA team will start its work next week, and that the work will likely take several months before a report is released.
The Marshall Fire burned more than 6,000 acres in a matter of hours and destroyed nearly 1,110 homes and businesses, and damaged nearly 200 others. One man is confirmed to have died in the fire, and investigators are working to determine if bone fragments belong to a woman missing since the fire tore through Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County.
Analysis by the National Weather Service in Boulder released Jan. 12 looked into the 80-100 mile-per-hour winds, extreme drought conditions, and atmospheric conditions that helped turn the fire into what officials have called a “firestorm.”
As of Friday, more than $43 million in federal aid has been approved for Marshall Fire victims, the Federal Emergency management Agency said.