Colorado fire could cost local railroad company millions

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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The 416 Fire imaged in infrared by NASA satellite.
NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The 416 Fire in Colorado last June created one big devastating number: 54,000. That is how many acres were destroyed during the blaze, which lasted five months and also crippled the local economy in Durango and Silverton, Colo. Another number is coming up, and it could bring the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to its knees.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, American Heritage Railways Inc., claiming the company caused the fire due to burning particles emitted from an exhaust tack on a coal-burning steam engine locomotive. The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to be held liable for all of the damages caused by the fire. The suppression of the fire alone cost $25 million.

“This fire caused significant damage, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and put lives at risk,” U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in a statement. “We owe it to taxpayers to bring this action on their behalf.”

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad denies any wrongdoing and refuses to settle the lawsuit outside of court. Dunn says he does not have to prove the company was acting negligently or carelessly. All that needs to be established, according to Dunn, was the railroad caused the fire.

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Categories: Freight, Shortline/Regional
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