Investigators are looking at an old coal mine as the possible cause of the Marshall Fire northwest of Denver, Colorado. Decades ago miners were extracting coal from an area near the location where the Marshall Fire started December 30, 2021. The remaining coal has been burning for years even though dozens of tons of fill were hauled in with the intention of stopping the burning, or at least insulating the fire from the surface. But these underground fires have a habit of creeping their way back to the surface and too often ignite a vegetation fire.
The old mine near the intersection of Highway 93 and Marshall Drive near the town of Marshall is one of 38 active underground coal fires in Colorado. In 2002 a burning underground coal seam ignited vegetation near Glenwood Springs, Colorado which burned 29 homes and more than 12,000 acres.
Wildfire Today had an article in 2008 about an 8-year-old boy who suffered burns on his foot when he walked into an area of Golden Hills park in Colorado Springs, Colorado that was covered in coal dust. Left over from coal mining operations about 80 years earlier, the dust was on fire, smoldering, and it melted the boy’s plastic shoe and gave him second degree burns. If the boy had not “discovered” the fire, it would have spread into nearby vegetation. The cause of the fire was unknown.
Pushed by winds gusting at 60 to 100 mph, the Marshall Fire spread rapidly last month as it destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Most were in the city of Louisville and the town of Superior.