Durango & Silverton’s request to dismiss case involving 416 Fire is denied

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
short line railroad
NCRR will assist in the construction of a railroad industrial lead track and switches, and related infrastructure at a new facility in Oakboro, N.C.

A new year does not mean 2019 and 2018 are going away for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

A few months ago the short line railroad company asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the federal government for the payment of $25 million following the 416 Fire in Colorado two years ago. The Durango & Silverton denied it was the cause of the fire, but the federal government insisted a spark from the smokestack of a locomotive used by Durango & Silverton was the culprit, and is charging Durango & Silverton for all attempts to prevent the fire from spreading. The case was passed to U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter, who is refusing to dismiss the case.

In his recommendation for dismissal, Neureiter said the United States should be able to recover fire suppression costs as the property owner.

Durango & Silverton tried to make the argument that by granting the federal government the opportunity to recover the costs of actually fighting the fire is like someone trying to recover costs from suffering health effects due to a fire miles away.

“The entire purpose of this strict liability statute was to shift the unavoidable cost of fires started by coal-burning trains to the railroads who run the train,” Neureiter said. “It would be nonsensical … to not include the expense of fire suppression as part of the damages for which a railroad is strictly liable.”

Durango & Silverton can still challenge Neureiter’s recommendation.

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