Destructive Marshall Fire May Have Started On Religious 'Cult' Land

By Zuri Anderson

January 5, 2022

Newly-released video shows where the devastating Marshall Fire may have started in Colorado, and authorities believe it may have originated on property owned by a religious "cult."

Boulder resident Jack Pommer told CBS 4 he was heading to the store in Superior when he noticed a small grass fire near the intersection of Highway 93 and Marshall Road.

"I stopped and took pictures of it," he recounted to reporters. "I thought it was a little grass fire. It didn’t seem like a danger at all." That little fire turned into an overwhelming blaze within hours, destroying and damaging 1,000 homes and forcing over 30,000 people to evacuate Superior, Louisville, Broomfield, and other areas of Boulder County. At least two people were reported missing, local officials say.

Pommer, fighting against hurricane-force winds, whipped out his cellphone and started recording video of the flames. Footage shows a burning shed on a property in Eldorado Springs Drive belonging to a religious group called 12 Tribes, according to Newsweek. Within minutes, the small blaze blew up into an intense wildfire, Pommer says.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle confirmed during a Sunday (January 2) news briefing that the Marshall Fire "originated somewhere in that neighborhood... There was a viral video that was posted of a shed on fire. We don’t know that that shed started the fire or whether it was secondary."

Authorities have refused to comment on what caused the destructive wildfire and the precise location.

"It’s complicated and it’s under snow," Pelle says. "We will sort it out. It’s an active, open deal and the outcome of that investigation is vital, there is so much at stake. So we are going to be careful."

CBS 4 reached out to 12 Tribes for comment about the fire, but a representative for the organization declined.

Twelve Tribes is a Christian sect that was founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee back in the 1970s. They have several locations across the United States and in other countries while operating delis, restaurants, and other businesses, including the Yellow Deli in Boulder, reporters say.

The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the group as a "cult" in 2018. It also found itself in controversy for allegedly violating child labor laws in New York, and running afoul of the law in Germany over its homeschooling practices, Newsweek reports. The group also caught some heat back in 2019 when a former member told a college newspaper he was beaten as a child during his time in 12 Tribes.

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