416 Fire: Lawsuit Against Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Not Dismissed

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) – In what could be a major blow to a company that operates a historic railroad in southwestern Colorado, a federal judge has recommended that a court throw out the company’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit in which the U.S. government is seeking $25 million for fighting the 416 Fire. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is accused in a lawsuit of causing one of the largest wildfires in state history.

(credit: inciweb.nwcg.gov)

The 2018 fire started along the train’s tracks north of Durango and went on to burn more than 54,000 acres of mostly national forest lands in the Hermosa Creek watershed.

The federal lawsuit says nearly 50 fires in southwestern Colorado were ignited by a railroad company in the weeks leading up to a major wildfire. The Durango Herald reported the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad caused the smaller fires along its tracks in the weeks leading up to the 416 Fire.

The U.S. Forest Service has filed a lawsuit seeking $25 million for firefighting costs. The lawsuit says the company was responsible for starting the 416 Fire north of Durango that began June 1, 2018.

Fire investigators and eyewitnesses say a cinder from a train smokestack ignited the blaze during an extreme drought in Colorado.

Court records say train conductors reported four dozen fires along the tracks.

The railroad denies its coal-fired, steam locomotives started the 416 Fire.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfires section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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