Railroad only pays half of cost of fires caused by their steam engines

Coal-burning trains operated by D&SNG in Colorado have started multiple wildfires in the San Juan National Forest

According to an article in the Durango Herald the company that operates a steam-powered railroad for tourists north of Durango, Colorado has been paying only about half of the costs of suppressing numerous fires started by the coal-burning locomotives.

The newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to get the U.S. Forest Service to release information about the fires caused by the train that burned in the San Juan National Forest. Much of the 42-mile route the steam engines travel between Durango and Silverton is within the National Forest.

The Herald studied seven of the major fires that occurred between 1994 and 2013 that investigators determined were started by the train. In these cases the railroad offered to pay much less than the amount billed by the Forest Service. The agency settled with the company, agreeing to allow payments of between 20 and 88 percent for the seven fires, averaging 53 percent of the billed amounts.

We assembled the data from the article and created the table below.

D&SNG payments for wildfires steam engine train
Data collected by the Durango Herald from the USFS; collated by Wildfire Today.

The U.S. Forest Service has not released the cause of the most recent fire that started near the railroad, the 416 Fire that burned about 54,000 acres and ran up suppression costs totaling approximately $31.3 million as of six weeks after the fire started.

At least six local residents and business owners in the Durango area have filed a lawsuit against D&SNG alleging that the train started the 416 Fire on June 1.

D&SNG reports that they plan to replace some of the coal-powered locomotives with diesel engines during periods of high wildfire danger.

Click here to see all articles on Wildfire Today about trains and wildfires.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Gary.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

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. Google+

One thought on “Railroad only pays half of cost of fires caused by their steam engines”

  1. I wonder why the Forest Service did not release the information voluntarily? If the Durango Herald had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get the information, it doesn’t sound like the Forest Service is interested in transparency… at least not in this case.

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