Colorado wildfire investigation uncovers religious sect of Twelve Tribes

The Mishmash of homes occupied by the religious sect of the Twelve Tribes remains the focus of investigation into the origins of the martial fire, as Boulder County Sheriff’s officials confirmed Thursday that they are still in the process of executing a search warrant on the property.


Authorities have taken control of the property south of Boulder as the investigation continues. Searches on the compound have been complicated by the weather and will take some time to complete, the sheriff’s office said, adding that officers may prevent twelve tribe members from returning until the search is over.

Boulder County Sheriff’s officers are investigating why the Marshall fire, which ignited a week ago and burned more than 1,000 homes as it exploded in Louisville and Superior on hurricane-force winds, was located off Eldorado Springs Drive. With may begin on the property of the religious denomination.


A man driving in the area opened martial fire in the morning filmed a now viral video of a shed burning on the property of the Twelve Tribes. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pele said investigators have yet to determine the cause of the wildfire or determine its exact point of origin. the fire started in that neighborhood Off Colo 93 and Marshall Road.

The property of the entire Twelve Tribes has been cordoned off since Sunday, and law enforcement this week has beefed up the guard around the fencing, which keeps passers-by walking too close. Scorched metal and debris can be seen in one corner of the complex; Some houses inside the fence appear incomplete with flames. A hand-painted welcome sign featuring mountains, meadows and stars welcoming visitors.


“We’re just in the same boat as everyone else, we’re waiting for officials to investigate and we’re cooperating,” said a member of Twelve Tribes reached by the Denver Post, speaking on condition of anonymity. Because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the group. “We would like to find out where it started like everyone else. We are clearly part of that community… Our hearts and prayers are with everyone.”

Colorado’s most devastating wildfire likely started on property owned by a religious sect that many in the area previously knew for its bohemian Boulder restaurant—Yellow Deli, which is temporarily closed—has opened to the new focused on typically low-profile groups This week.

“For the outside community, it can be a good thing for people to know more about this group,” says Janja Lalich, a sociologist and longtime cult expert.


A still frame from video shot by Mike Zoltowski shows the early stages of the Marshall Fire around 5325 Eldorado Springs Drive in Boulder County on Thursday. The Zoltowski lived near property occupied by members of the Twelve Tribes, a religious sect. Zoltowski said he saw fire and smoke at the sect’s property at around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 30, 2021.

The Twelve Tribes was founded in 1972 by Eugene Spriggs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a new denomination of Christianity that blended Spriggs’ personal beliefs with elements of both Christianity and Judaism.

Groups estimated at a few thousand members worldwide, with communities in Boulder County and Manitou Springs, are no strangers to controversy. Some of her teachings are considered misogynistic and racist, but over the years she has been consistently criticized for her treatment of children.

spriggs, joe Died in January 2020 at the age of 83Children are believed to be disciplined with wooden sticks. Lalich said adults of the Twelve Tribes are reported to have regularly thrashed and thrashed the children of the group for misbehavior.


Some former members described severe, sometimes hours-long beatings for minor abuse as children. Members of the Twelve Tribes strongly defend the use of physical discipline and dispute that the practice is abused.

In 1984, police and social workers in Vermont raided the premises of Twelve Tribes and took 112 children into protective custody over reports of child abuse – but the children were forced to return hours later when a judge found that The raids were unconstitutional. Raid, featured on Front page of The New York Times, was a pivotal moment for the group.

On the 16th anniversary of the raid, the Twelve Tribes marked the event by inviting the media and community members to their Vermont community, where the children were taken to the raid – until the adults defended their parents’ discipline practices. spoke in and said they had not been abused according to Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. coverage in,

Another defining characteristic of the Twelve Tribes is how many businesses the group operates, said Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta. The group runs restaurants such as Yellow Deli in Boulder, as well as bakeries, a manufacturing business, soap factories, and more. The businesses are run by members of the twelve tribes, who are known to have worked without pay.

Twelve tribes faced legal action in California in 2008, when officials there found that its businesses violated the state’s minimum wage laws because workers were not paid, according to San Diego Reader, At that time, the Twelve Tribes described all their workers as “volunteers”, the story states. Those joining the twelve tribes must give up all their property.

Lalich stated that the group should be considered a cult.

“A cult is a group that has a charismatic, authoritarian leader, has an extremist ideology, an all-or-nothing ideology or belief system, and that tends to exploit members in some way or the other. Uses manipulative and coercive methods of influencing control. – money, sex, whatever,” she said. “So (Twelve Tribes) definitely fits into that profile.”

Twelve Tribes Teachings Call Slavery a “Wonderful Opportunity” for Black People Southern Poverty Law Center, and black members are considered subordinate to white people. The group also keeps away homosexuals and requires women to be subservient to men, according to the center.

twelve tribes
The Twelve Tribes property on Eldorado Springs Drive, closed by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.

Kent noted that some of the literature of the Twelve Tribes discusses fire, and, in particular, fire as a force of God, but the group is not considered to be particularly fire-centered.

“It is unlikely that a group like the Twelve Tribes will destroy their facility,” he said, adding that some religious groups have deliberately set fires. A particular group in Canada that believed fire was a cleaning force would burn down their homes from time to time, he said.

Kent said, “(They) will take off their clothes and throw their clothes into the fire and wait for Jesus to return naked in the canyons of Canada.”

But he said there is no indication that the twelve tribes used fire in this way.

“While I am not a fan of Twelve Tribes, it is unfair, on the dangerous frontier, to suggest pre-evidence and determine intentions and reasons before we have evidence,” he said.