Law enforcement vehicles have barricaded a 5-acre compound west of Boulder for days, but officials have not said what they are doing there.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle has said the 6,026-acre Marshall fire started in an area of unincorporated Boulder County near the compound at 5300 Eldorado Springs Drive. There is video of a shed on fire at the compound taken at 11:45 a.m. Thursday by a man who had been living next door to the property for the last three months. Pelle said the investigation into the cause of the fire includes the compound and surrounding area.
The property, located at Marshall Road and Highway 93, is owned by a religious sect called Twelve Tribes, which owns and operates a popular Boulder restaurant called Yellow Deli.
In a phone interview, a representative from the Twelve Tribes organization said the 30 members who lived on the Boulder County compound are safe but have evacuated the area.
The man, who said he was “somewhere on the East Coast a very long way away” and wished not to be identified, said: “Until the investigation is complete, it’s hard to know what to say about (the fire).”
He said there are Twelve Tribes organizations spread throughout the world. When asked about the speculation that Thursday’s wildfire may have broken out at the Boulder sect’s compound, he said: “People talk about each other all of the time. They talk about us because we’re different.”
The neighbor, Mike Zoltowski, said that as the winds roared, he was alarmed by commotion outside as firetrucks maneuvered on nearby roads.
“It was like a war zone,” said Zoltowski.
He said his white picket fence flew through the air: “A 12-foot section broke into the kitchen door. My head was in a swivel at that time.”
When he saw smoke coming from a shed on the Twelve Tribes property, he picked up his phone and braved the winds to find out more.
“I said ‘Oh boy, this is not a good situation,’” he said.
When Zoltowski walked over to see what was happening, he found three people huddled between two vehicles. One of them, an older man, had fallen and sustained a dislocated shoulder.
“I asked them what the hell’s going on here? They said, ‘Oh, one of our dwellings caught on fire. It’s under control,’” said Zoltowski. “I was like, ‘This doesn’t look under control.’”
Zoltowski took many videos, one of which shows two men supporting a third in obvious pain as they walked down a dirt road. In another, fierce winds feed the flames of the shed, which is located on the far west side of the property down a gravel and dirt road.
He said the shed was downwind, which didn’t make sense to him.
“The fact that the shed caught fire either says that it started there at the shed or there was electrical wiring that was going to that shed that was connected to another dwelling,” Zoltowski said.
Zoltowski represents a Canadian company called Just BioFiber Structural Solutions, which builds homes made out of material designed to withstand fire.
Twelve Tribes — one of the few groups surviving from the Jesus movement of the 1960s and 1970s — traces its origins to the day of Pentecost, which is celebrated by Christians worldwide today, and was described in the New Testament book of Acts:
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. … All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”
The group has another branch in Manitou Springs associated with the Maté Factor Café.
David Boyd of the Bureau of Land Management said wildfire experts with the U.S. Forest Service are helping the Boulder County Sheriff's Office in the investigation.
Zoltowski said forensic investigators interviewed him and have taken his videos into evidence.