In December 2021, when Stephen Wenzel called his extremely pregnant wife to tell her about the approaching wildfire that would later be known as the Marshall fire, she was sound sleeping and ignorant to the danger. The Marshall fire would ultimately be named after Stephen Wenzel’s son, Marshall. “When I got up and looked out the window, my neighborhood was on fire,” recalled Savannah Wenzel, who is now 29 years old. Her battle with COVID-19 had rendered her unable to detect the odor of the gray and black cloud that had engulfed the backyard of the rented property they were occupying in the Sagamore neighborhood of Louisville.
Wenzel’s bloated tummy caused her to lose her balance, and in her distress she grabbed the dog and the briefcase that belonged to her husband before falling all the way to the automobile. The Wenzels were stripped of the majority of their things and their rental home, but they were blessed with a daughter. They will join the ranks of other Marshall fire survivors who have filed a lawsuit against Xcel Energy, arguing that the power company is responsible for their monetary losses, emotional suffering, and punitive damages. The lawsuit is scheduled to be filed this week.
Claire was born prematurely, nine days after the most disastrous fire in the history of Colorado, and she continues to have health-related issues, which may be related to the smoke inhalation that her mother experienced as well as the high blood pressure that was caused by stress. “We’ve encountered challenge after struggle. Emotionally, this has been a really challenging experience. I’ve experienced certain health problems that are probably connected to it. “Things have been very challenging,” stated Savannah Wenzel.
The Marshall fire that started on December 30, 2021 spread across 6,080 acres and was responsible for the deaths of two people. 35 thousand people were forced to leave their homes, and thousands of animals, including people’s pets, were killed. On that particular day, there was a strong wind warning because the wind gusts in Boulder County reached more than 100 miles per hour.
Boulder County Sheriff Curtis Johnson reported on June 8 that the fire was caused by two distinct ignitions. The first was lit by an unmoored Xcel Energy power line, and the second was caused by embers from a garbage fire that had been burning for a week at the neighboring Twelve Tribes property. The investigation into the incident lasted for 18 months and was quite lengthy. The Twelve Tribes is a religious community that can be found at 5325 Eldorado Springs Drive. They live together as a community.
According to Johnson, even though the two fires were not connected to one another in any way, they finally fused together to produce a megafire. Xcel did not answer to a request for a comment on the lawsuits; nevertheless, the business vehemently opposed to the results of the government’s inquiry. In a statement, the company said that it did not have the opportunity to evaluate what the company referred to as the sheriff office’s “flawed” research. Xcel did not react to the request for a comment on the lawsuits.
Tyler Bryant, a spokesman for Xcel Energy, issued the following statement on June 8: “We strongly disagree with any suggestion that Xcel Energy’s power lines caused the second ignition.” We operate and maintain our electric system in accordance with the most current best practices in the energy service industry. On June 8, shortly after Dougherty made the announcement that he would not be seeking criminal charges in connection with the Marshall fire, the first complaints were filed in civil court. The first claim was submitted by Spreter-Petiprin, a law company based in California that specializes in wildfire lawsuits and that counts the Wenzels as one of its roughly 80 clients. This claim was the first to be filed in the case. Ben Petiprin, a litigator who specializes in wildfire cases, said, “We have been watching the Marshall fire case from right after it happened.”