DURANGO, Colo. — In what could be a major blow to a company that operates a historic railroad in southwestern Colorado, a federal judge has recommended that a court throw out the company's motion to dismiss a lawsuit in which the U.S. government is seeking $25 million for fighting the 416 Fire.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is accused in a lawsuit of causing one of the largest wildfires in state history.
The 2018 fire started along the train’s tracks north of Durango and went on to burn more than 54,000 acres of mostly national forest lands in the Hermosa Creek watershed.
The fire started June 1, 2018 in extreme drought conditions near tracks for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. A resident reported seeing smoke after one of its coal-fired trains passed by.
The owner of the scenic railroad, Al Harper, declined to comment but has previously acknowledged the possibility of a train starting the fire.
Some residents and business owners, meanwhile, are suing the railroad over the fire.
Officials say fish populations in a Colorado river have been severely depleted due to suffocation caused by debris from the 2018 wildfire.
The Durango Herald reported in September that Animas River fish populations were down about 80% due to runoff filled with ash from the 416 Fire.
The first full-scale Colorado Parks and Wildlife survey conducted since then found a 64% decline from the river's historical average amount of trout.
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