Newspaper editorial: railroad being charged with felonies for starting fire

On February 16 Wildfire Today reported that the Attorney General of Michigan filed felony charges against the Lake State Railway for allegedly starting the 2008 Grayling fire that burned 1,300 acres. Today the Traverse City Record-Eagle wrote an editorial about the actions of the Attorney General. Here is an exerpt:

…The criminal charges are not good news for the railway, and possibly industries and businesses in the northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula that ship freight by rail. If convicted, LSR could be ordered to pay fines and full restitution. The estimated cost of the fire totaled $934,000 — $464,000 in lost timber, $370,000 in personal property loss and $100,000 for firefighting.

The cost of (spark) arresters — if it is found engines were not equipped with them — compared to possible restitution is peanuts.

The state Department of Natural Resources is to be commended for pursuing its two-year investigation, and Cox is right to file charges if evidence indicates that the company is responsible.

Wildfires anywhere, but especially in forested areas, are serious and deadly business. It is fortunate that no lives were lost.

Spark arresters and other safety equipment are a must for trains. The laws are there for a reason.

Congratulations to the Traverse City Record-Eagle and the Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox, for their good work. They are setting an example that the state of Washington should follow, holding railroads accountable for starting fires.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.