Published: March 2, 2022

On Dec. 30, 2021, the Marshall Fire burned large portions of Superior and Louisville, Colorado, devastating our local community. The fire led to the loss of approximately 1,000 structures, mostly single-family homes, making it one of the most destructive and costly fire events in U.S. history. The costs to the health and well-being of the individuals affected by the fire are incalculable.

The Marshall Fire may also have longer-term consequences for environmental quality in the area. In particular, the burning of homes and other structures may have led to the widespread contamination of surrounding soils. However, the magnitude of the potential soil contamination and the specific nature of the soil contaminants are unknown.

CU Boulder researchers have set out to assess whether the Marshall Fire resulted in the contamination of soils in the fire-affected area—an important question for residents looking to rebuild, as well as those in areas that may be affected by future fires. They will sample soils from fire-affected properties and neighboring properties that were not directly damaged during the fire event to compare levels of heavy metals (including lead, mercury, nickel and copper) and other soil pollutants.

The research team

The research team consists of individuals who are part of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO), and the Department of Environmental Studies (ENVS) at CU Boulder.

  • Project co-managers: Sierra Jech and Clifford Adamchak
  • Co-principal investigators: Eve-Lyn Hinckley and Noah Fierer

Funding for this project is provided, in part, by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Willing to be involved?

Researchers are looking for volunteers to participate in this study. If you own property in the Marshall Fire area and are willing to participate in this study, please fill out this online form. Note that they are looking to sample soils from properties that were damaged during the fire and from properties in the surrounding Louisville/Superior area that experienced little to no fire damage.

Please pass the sign-up form along to other property owners in the Marshall Fire area who might be interested in participating.


See the FAQ page for more information about this project. Note that your participation in this project will incur no cost to you and minimal time commitment. Importantly, any information regarding the extent of soil contamination on individual properties will not be shared publicly or shared with any other entities. However, if your property is selected for inclusion in this study, you will be able to view results from your own property.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments please email