More than 150 insurance companies and two survivors of the catastrophic Marshall fire are suing Xcel Energy for the utility company’s role in Colorado’s costliest and most destructive fire.
The lawsuits come a month after the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and sheriff’s office announced the findings of their 18-month probe into the cause of the 2021 fire. The report found the fire had two ignition points, including an Xcel Energy power line that arced after it disconnected amid high winds and sent hot particles into dry grass.
The utility company has denied that its power lines played a role in triggering a fire. The company declined to comment Tuesday.
The pair of lawsuits, filed in Boulder County District Court in the last several days, are the latest legal actions against the utility company. Both seek damages for the fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County and caused more than $2 billion in property damage.
The lawsuit filed Thursday comes from more than 150 insurance companies that insured owners of property that was burned in the Marshall fire. The companies are seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages, accusing Xcel of negligence.
“The inherent danger in electricity and Xcel Energy’s design of its electrical equipment materialized in an arcing event that was a substantial factor in causing and contributing to the spread of the Marshall Fire,” the lawsuit said.
The damage caused by the property “was the inescapable and unavoidable consequence” of Xcel Energy’s electrical equipment, it said.
The lawsuit did not name Twelve Tribes, a religious group with property in unincorporated Boulder County where investigators identified the first ignition point of the Marshall fire. High winds on Dec. 30 resurfaced still-burning embers from a debris fire on their property a week earlier, but investigators said property owners responsibly extinguished the fire and had no way of predicting the weather in the days to come.
A separate lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of two Marshall fire survivors, John and Julia Uridil. It claims Xcel Energy knew Boulder County faced a high risk of fire Dec. 30, citing the overgrowth of dry wildland grasses and a warning from the National Weather Service about high winds that had the potential to knock over power lines.
While some utility companies in the West deliberately shut off power when high fire danger exists, known as public safety power shutoffs, Xcel did not shut off power, according to the lawsuit filed by Edelson PC, a law firm that has has represented property owners in some of the country’s largest fires and received a $13.5 billion settlement with PG&E over the losses from the 2018 Camp fire in California.
“Had Xcel Energy de-energized its power lines, implemented a PSPS, buried its power lines or taken other necessary steps to prevent a power line ignition before or as high winds whipped through the region, the devastation caused by the Marshall Fire would have been prevented,” the lawsuit said.
The Uridils, whose home was partially destroyed, are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
Todd Logan, an attorney with Edelson PC, said the firm plans to file hundreds of lawsuits against Xcel, including dozens in the coming weeks, primarily representing owners whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire.