Colorado Fire May Have Started on Sect's Land

Witnesses saw something burning on property of Twelve Tribes
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2022 5:05 PM CST
Fire Probe Turns to Land Owned by Sect
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, center, talks with Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann, right, during a tour of the Marshall fire damage in Louisville, Colo., on Sunday.   (Matthew Jonas /The Denver Post via AP)

Moments before a wildfire raged through Colorado suburbs last week, a structure was spotted burning on land owned by a Christian fundamentalist sect. Investigators working to determine the cause of the fire are now focusing on that property, the New York Times reports. Witnesses have reported seeing a structure burning, just before suburbs were hit, on the property of Twelve Tribes, a sect that began in Tennessee in the 1970s. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle cautioned that no conclusions have been reached and that the investigation is just beginning.

"We're going to take our time and be methodical because the stakes are huge," Pelle said. Downed power lines first were suspected as a possible cause, but Xcel Energy said the lines convey telecommunications data, not electricity. There's video of a shed burning, but Pelle said it's hard to tell if that's where the wildfire started. "It's complicated, and it's all covered with a foot of snow," he said. A neighborhood west of Superior and Louisville, the towns that burned, is receiving attention from investigators, per USA Today. "I'm not a trained fire investigator. It's really obvious where that fire started and what direction it went in," Pelle said.

It was so windy in the area last Thursday that no one should have lit any fires, the sheriff said. "If it turns out to be arson or reckless behavior with fire, we’ll take appropriate actions," Pelle said. Two people are still missing, and crews are going through the rubble of the two buildings where they were thought to have been when the fire struck. They're working by hand, with small tools, Pelle said. Federal investigators from the FBI, Forest Service, and other agencies are helping, the sheriff said. (More Colorado wildfires stories.)

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