DENVER (CBS4) — The federal government announced it is suing the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and its owner and operator for damages related to the 416 Fire. The fire started on June 1, 2018, and burned actively for approximately 61 days. Approximately 54,000 acres were burned, mostly on lands in the San Juan National Forest.
The lawsuit alleges that the fire was ignited by burning particles emitted from an exhaust stack on a coal-burning steam engine locomotive.
“The United States asserts that because the fire was caused by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and American Heritage Railways, Inc., they should be held liable under federal and Colorado law for all the damages incurred by the United States as a result of the fire, including the costs of fire suppression and the costs to rehabilitate the public lands damaged by the fire,” officials said in a statement released Tuesday.
Officials said the federal government incurred approximately $25 million in suppression costs and other damages, including rehabilitation costs, which are still to be fully determined.
“This fire caused significant damage, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and put lives at risk. We owe it to taxpayers to bring this action on their behalf,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.