The federal government is seeking $25 million in damages from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to recover costs of fighting the 416 Fire that started when embers from a coal-burning locomotive ignited a blaze that would eventually consume 54,129 acres from June 1 to July 31, 2018.
The Durango Herald asked people what they think would be a just outcome to the federal lawsuit.
Here is a summary of their comments:
“I don’t know anything about the annual revenue of the train. It seems like that should be relevant. Yes, they should pay something. I just don’t know about the total amount. I don’t know their budget.”
“I think it’s fair and equitable. When it first took place, the guy said he saw the ember come down, so it’s almost 100% the train did it. So the train will probably pay it, and they’re probably insured.”
“I don’t know enough about how they’re calculating the totals, but some money should go back to the agencies that fought it. The train is a for-profit entity, and they should pay for damages like any other business.”
“I feel like they should take some responsibility. But $25 million seems excessive. I don’t think they were careless in their work. Accidents happen. Growing up in Durango, you always had the train around, and you brought people here to ride it.”
“I don’t know how much $25 million is for the train. I do think it’s fair they be reprimanded in some way. The fire was pretty devastating to Durango.”
“I think it’s unfair. I don’t think it’s necessary to go after the train when they’ve done everything in their power to prevent it. There are such things as accidents. With the amount they are asking for, they are trying to put the train out of business. I think there are some underlying politics there that are unsettling to me. The Harpers are good people, and they provide jobs and incomes to this community. It’s totally unwarranted.”
“If there was deliberate negligence, yes. But if they had taken all due care, and it was an accident, it was out of their hands. In Australia, we have some fire ban days that come down from the local council, like a state government. Was something like that in place?”
“I think I need more information. What was the background? Was the train company warned or was everyone surprised by it? Was it true neglect? Hurting a local business is a big thing to think about. I doubt I know the answer.
“It would be nice if there was some type of mediation process without a lot of legal stuff. You want the best possible outcome. You don’t want the train to go out of business.”
“It happens all the time where I’m from, and the train company ends up having to pay something. It just takes one spark. But they’re big commercial trains.”
“I think it would hurt the town and Silverton. The train’s a huge attraction. The fire was bad. I get it. I’m just not a suing person. Of course, my home didn’t burn down, but the train is a big attraction.”
“I’ve come here for vacations for years, for 30 years. I come to Durango, I go to Ouray, Silverton, and it would hurt the town. It would really hurt Silverton.”
“If the train caused the fire, they should pay for it. They should pay something.”
“They’ve gone after other people. Remember the forest ranger who started the big fire years ago burning her love letters.”