Facts should help shape opinions, but opinions do not determine facts. The ignition source of the 416 Fire is not decided by how many people support or criticize the railroad. The eyewitness and circumstantial evidence clearly lead to the conclusion, a fact, that a burning cinder of coal from a locomotive smokestack ignited the fire. The investigators must know within a few square feet where the fire started. There is only so much to observe and analyze. I agree with the many writers who question if the process has become political. Obviously, the railroad needs to accept responsibility.
I’m not judging the railroad. Given their extensive fire discovery and suppression methods, I would have thought that trains could safely run that day. But the railroad, the local officials that allowed trains to operate, and all of us learned a painful and expensive lesson. Times are different now.
Are there contributing factors? Some say there should be more logging, road building and grazing. A Montrose writer suggested that privatizing public lands would make them better maintained. However, the facts are that both the 416 and Missionary fires started on private land. The railroad right-of-way in that area is private. The Missionary Fire burned an area that has been heavily logged, cattle still graze and there are numerous roads. The main contributing factor for both fires is extreme drought, caused by climate change accelerated by increasing levels of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels and methane leaks.