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Religious group’s land tied to Colorado fire investigation, sheriff says

Fire investigators have been working on property tied to the Twelve Tribes religious sect located just south of Boulder

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Days after flames and smoke were seen emanating from what may be the source of the Marshall Fire, investigators continue to eye property tied to a religious sect.

Members of the global religious group live just south of the city near Highway 93 and Marshall Road, where smoke and flames were captured on witness video mid-morning last Thursday.

The fire destroyed nearly 1,000 homes in Superior and Louisville and is the state’s most destructive wildfire on record.

This week, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle acknowledged the group’s land in this location is tied to the investigation and stressed it could take weeks or months to find an official cause of the fire.

So far, nobody has been charged or accused.

9Wants to Know has been looking into Twelve Tribes, which is a religious sect with communities from Japan to Boulder. It operates more than 20 Yellow Deli shops, including a location on Pearl Street in the city. The group says it tries to live a lifestyle reflective of the early Christian church.

Yet the group has been scrutinized by law enforcement and media over its 50 year history, with former members coming forward claiming violations of child labor laws, abuse and slavery.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and documents extremist groups, calls Twelve Tribes a “Christian fundamentalist cult.”

9NEWS made numerous attempts to reach out to the group via phone calls and emails, but nobody responded.

On Tuesday a sign read “Unexpectedly closed due to the fire,” on the Yellow Deli door on Pearl Street, yet a man answered and referred all questions to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO).

The Yellow Deli shop has been in operation since 2011 according to the Twelve Tribe’s website.

RELATED: Cell phone video could help pinpoint where the Marshall Fire started

RELATED: Firefighter shares photos, video from Marshall Fire front lines

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