Durango-Silverton railroad to pay $20M for 416 Fire
Plus: Singing the Siltation Blues; Drought Relief Elusive
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and its parent company, American Heritage Railways, have agreed to pay the federal government $20 million for damages caused by the 2018 416 Fire, according to federal prosecutors. The company will modify its operations to mitigate fire hazard as part of the agreement. The railroad reportedly has also reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit brought by home- and business-owners over fire damages.
The settlements resolve years of litigation over the fire, which was ignited near the railroad’s tracks north of Durango on June 1 and went on to scorch 54,000 acres of drought-dried vegetation on and around Hermosa Mountain. Federal and private investigators concluded that a tinder from one of the railroad’s coal-fired locomotive’s smokestacks sparked the blaze. With evidence in hand, the government tried to get the railroad to comply with state statute, which says: “Every railroad company operating its line of road, or any part thereof, within this state shall be liable for all damages by fires that are set out or caused by operating any such line of road, or any part thereof, in this state, whether negligently or otherwise.”