As the last plumes of smoke drifted from the smoldering communities of Louisville and Superior in the wake of the Marshall Fire, some displaced residents were already reporting exorbitant rental rates and hotel costs.

“If some sellers are acting in a way that’s unreasonable, and out of step with normal supply and demand, we can view them as engaging in what economists would call ‘opportunistic behavior,’ or what I would call preying on people when they’re vulnerable,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told the Boulder Reporting Lab. “That’s price gouging.”

And that’s illegal. We’ve got more from Weiser on penalties for price gougers in today’s top story. He spoke with reporter John Herrick about how Colorado law protects residents from “unreasonably excessive” prices in the aftermath of disasters like the Marshall Fire, and shared resources for reporting “out of whack” charges to the Attorney General’s Office.

Before you get to it, a reminder: Don’t forget about our Lens on Boulder series! We want to see your photos from around town — whether it’s something beautiful, something newsworthy, or something that just made you smile. Send your images here, and you just might see them in BRL Today.

– Jezy, managing editor

Credit: Anthony Albidrez for Boulder Reporting Lab

Top Story

Colorado Attorney General: Price gouging on rentals and hotels is illegal

Displaced Boulder County residents have been sounding alarms about alleged exorbitant rental rates and hotel costs. But a 2020 Colorado law protects them from this kind of price gouging. John Herrick interviews Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who’s urging residents to report “out of whack” prices. “We have serious penalties we can use,” he said. Read the full story


⏱️ A little bit warmer today. Highs in the low 50s.
⏱️ Fire restrictions have been lifted for western Boulder County. You’ll still need a permit for prescribed burns.
⏱️ The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has lifted the boil water advisory in Superior, but some residents say the water smells like smoke.
⏱️ Town officials say they are working to determine what’s causing the odor, and are conducting additional tests to ensure drinking water safety. More will be shared during a special Town Board work session today at 6 p.m.
⏱️ If you live in Superior and have concerns about your drinking water, contact the Public Works and Utilities Department. Residents and business owners may pick up bottled water at the community center.
⏱️ The Boulder County Community Foundation announced Tuesday it has raised $19.5 million through its Boulder County Wildfire Fund, from 57,000 donors. It has distributed $3.8 million to 1,400 families so far. It has also established an advisory board to guide the dispersal of funds in the future.
⏱️ Right of Entry forms, the first step in the county’s coordinated debris removal effort, are now available for properties destroyed or damaged by wildfire.
⏱️ Head’s up: After today, vital records support will be no longer be offered at the Disaster Assistance Center (DAC). Anyone affected by the fire can get assistance with the issuance of birth and death certificates by contacting the Boulder County Public Health call center at 303-441-1100.
⏱️ Boulder County is hiring a fire recovery specialist for its Resource Conservation Division, to help with debris management and outreach activities. Apply by Monday, Jan. 17.
⏱️ Rex Laceby, a former U.S. marine and wildland firefighter who responded to the Marshall Fire, has announced a run for Boulder County Sheriff.
⏱️ CU Boulder is implementing a new booster requirement. Those who work or study on campus must get their third shot by Feb. 24, or five months after the final dose of their original vaccine series.
⏱️ King Soopers locations at 6550 Lookout Rd. and 1650 30th St. will be affected by the upcoming UFCW Local 7 strike for higher wages and increased store safety and security measures. Here’s the full list from CPR News.
⏱️ Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 16 with MLK Day events funded by the City of Boulder’s Human Relations Commission and Office of Arts and Culture. Full schedule here.
⏱️ Boulder Running Company x Fleet Feet is hosting a 5K run to support the Community Foundation’s fund and Boulder Voices for Children. Run is in-person on Jan. 22 at 9.30 a.m. Virtual is an option too.
⏱️ Two young, healthy dogs were found near Pearl Street without tags, collars or microchips. Can you help them find their way back home?
⏱️ If you’ve lost or found a pet, you can report it to PawBoost here.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Jan. 12, 2022

  • 574 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 79%  over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 47 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) 🔺Up from avg. of 39 since July 2020.
  • 55% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 72% since July 2020.
  • Data: Here’s how and where we’re tracking all of the above.

Latest Covid news

  • New Foothills Hospital mask rule. Cloth masks are no longer allowed. The new rule applies to Foothills Hospital patients and visitors, including outpatient visits and inside primary and specialty care clinics. You’ll need a surgical or hospital-grade mask instead — like N95.
  • Covid tests covered. The Biden Administration is requiring U.S. insurers to reimburse the cost of eight at-home Covid tests each month for every person covered by a policy. “We are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release.
  • Cases undercounted. CDPHE and the Colorado Office of Information Technology say they have fixed a problem related to incorrect data on its public-facing Covid data dashboard. “CDPHE’s electronic laboratory reporting system was not successfully communicating with our disease reporting system, from which the public case data is sourced. This led to a significant undercount of cases displayed on the public-facing data dashboard from Jan. 5 through Jan. 9.”
  • Free vaccine clinics. Sign up now to get your first, second or third shot in the Out Boulder County parking lot on Friday, Jan. 28, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Free vaccinations are also being administered at the Boulder County Fairgrounds every day through Jan. 22, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Schedule your appointment here.

BRL Picks

🧠 Mental health workers needed. Colorado Responds is partnering with Spark the Change Colorado to connect people affected by the Marshall Fire with free counseling and mental health services. Are you a licensed mental health professional who can provide pro bono service? Check the website for details on Spark’s mental wellness program. To volunteer your service, contact Kelly Groen at
🍽️ Food is love. That’s the message behind a new campaign from First Bite Boulder, which is launching an effort to feed BVSD families affected by the Marshall Fire. They’ll be distributing gift card bundles ($50 value) to families at five impacted elementary schools: Coal Creek Elementary, Louisville Elementary, Monarch K-8, Fireside Elementary and Superior Elementary. Donate here.
👑 Drag for a cause. Don’t miss a high-energy drag show benefiting Boulder County fire victims on Thursday, 9 p.m., at Fusions Bar & Grill. The organizers have set a fundraising goal of $500. Suggested $5–10 donations will support displaced LGBTQ+ people in Boulder County.
🍲 Soup update. We continue to follow delicious developments concerning the Front Range Soup Brigade, which is delivering hot soup to fire victims in Boulder County. The group will soon implement a new volunteer sign-up system through a gift subscription from a volunteer software management company called VolunteerLocal.

What We’re Reading

  • What’s going on with Colorado hospital beds? The state’s recent reporting on the number of available intensive care and lower-level beds is among the lowest numbers of the pandemic so far. “In interviews with multiple hospital representatives, it becomes clear that a number of factors go into why the number of hospital beds in Colorado appears to be declining – some of it is related to how data is reported to the state and how beds are classified.” [Colorado Sun] See also BRL’s reporting on why the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
  • Boulder County oil and gas case under review. The Colorado Supreme Court will determine whether or not two county-owned oil and gas leases expired due to of a pause in production, according to a news bulletin from the county. “‘This is an important case because the court of appeals adopted what we believe is a minority, disfavored rule that allows operators to keep a lease in effect and avoid the expense of shutting it down. The minority rule allows operators to take advantage of mineral owners like Boulder County,’ said Commissioner Levy. ‘We are hopeful the higher court will see this is bad policy for Colorado.'” [Boulder County]
  • Twelve Tribes trash fire. A report obtained by the Denver Post shows firefighters responded to a legal trash fire at a property which has since become a focus of the investigation into the origins of the Marshall Fire. “At 11:53 a.m. on Dec. 24, a concerned passerby alerted authorities to a fire at 5325 Eldorado Springs Drive, a compound occupied by members of the Twelve Tribes religious sect. A Mountain View Fire Rescue crew investigated the fire that day and left without extinguishing it because it was not illegal, the report shows.” [Denver Post]


🎒 Resources for the hundreds of Boulder Valley students displaced by the Marshall Fire. It’s been a tough time for kids affected by wildfire in Boulder County, but relief is available for BVSD students — from federal benefits to free school supplies, local nonprofit support, mental health services and more.
💰 UPDATED: The Marshall Fire has spurred an outpouring of giving. Here’s where you can donate and volunteer today. Starting Jan. 11, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (BOEM) is accepting physical donations every day. Use this updated guide to donate cash, food and your own time.

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Archived work by Jezy Grazy for Boulder Reporting Lab.