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Steam & Excursion > Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022

Date: 01/05/22 18:33
Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: WP921

The Civil Lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado in Federal District Court against the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been scheduled for trial beginning on May 2, 2022.  The goal of the Federal Government in this case is to recover money spent by the U.S. Forest Service in fighting the 416 Fire of 2018, which the U.S. Forest Service blames on D&SNGRR.  According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado, the firefighting costs represent a $25 million loss to the taxpayers of the United States.

Federal District Court Judge Robert Blackburn will hear the case, and has ruled against the Defense Motion for a Summary Judgment (Bench Trial without Jury).  Additionally, attorneys for the railroad have requested that the trial be held in Durango.  The Assistant U.S. Attorneys representing the Government insist the trial should be held in Denver at the Alfred A. Arraj Federal Courthouse.  The Defense has argued that a jury pool consisting of local citizens most affected by the fire would be more appropriate.

Here is a a recent article in the Durango Herald describing the upcoming trial:


What is scary are some of the comments below the article.  It seems several of these individuals are advocating for the railroad to be removed and replaced with a trail.  Hopefully these are just part of a small but vocal minority and do not represent the majority of the jury pool.

In the context of some of these comments, converting the steam locomotives to oil and purchasing several diesels seems prudent.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/06/22 09:59 by WP921.

Date: 01/06/22 03:22
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: Train29

25 million is nothing to the spend happy U.S. Government. But it would most likely bankrupt the railroad. So they go after the little guy but won't prosecute actual crimes in several woke big cities. Durango wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for the railroad. I'm sure many business owners recognize that. The rest can move out if they don't like it. 

Date: 01/06/22 06:43
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: WW

The federal government is suing the D&S to cover up the absolute fact that a century of wildfire suppression by the United States Government has turned the Western National Forests into tinderboxes just waiting for an ignition source.  Concurrently, private residential land development in areas snuggled up against those forests have made things even worse.  Many trained and experienced foresters within the U.S. Forest Service know all of this and will admit it privately, but they seldom dare speak publicly about it.  Hopefully, the D&S defense team will call up some expert witnesses that will highlight the role that government forest mismanagement played in grossly aggravating the spread and severity of the fires that the D&S purportedly ignited.  There is a wealth of contributory negligence in the U.S. Forest Service, local governments, and private landowners that contributed to this mess.

Date: 01/06/22 08:40
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: BAB

Sad to see that rails to trails set up costs the public taxpayers unlike the RR which brings in money and doesnt cost the taxpayer.

Date: 01/06/22 15:13
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: callum_out

But think of the tens of thousands of people who would bike backpack to Ah Wilderness
every year!


Date: 01/07/22 06:17
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: PlyWoody

They claim they have the cinder that started the fire.  If I was along the track I could collect 1,000,000 cinders that did not start a fire of the woods.  It is just an act of God that one cinder started the fire through the un-managed woods.  They can't prove that cinder came from where the fire started.  This will never get to trial.  Settlement will be made and insurance will pay up. 

Date: 01/07/22 07:20
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: wcamp1472

From "Findlaw.com":

Federal Court Jury Verdicts: Must Be Unanimous In the federal system,
whether the trial is criminal or civil, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict.
Aug 22, 2018.     

If it's tried in the federal system, I doubt that jury would be unaninimous with the facts,
as I understand them..  

But lawyers's fees to defend the case could be substantial..

( lawyers fees paid by the defendant are not IRS taxable income to the lawyers...)


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/07/22 07:58 by wcamp1472.

Date: 01/08/22 09:33
Re: Jury Trial of D&SNG in 416 Fire Case Set for May 2022
Author: sixbit

We have had similar situations in California involving both the US Forest Service, Dept of Agriculture and CalFire (the State of Califoria statewide fire suppression agency). In one case the USFS identified an individual hunter for a 250,000 acre fire and the allegations were made in the news media at the time (2013). The individual identified was a lifelong hunter who denied having been in the area of the fire start. After well over a year of investigaiton and a gathering of facts, USFS quit talking about who was to blame and changed the subject to "improved forest management" which of course was a door they wished they never opened.

End result, no charges and a new Forest Supervisor.

In another situation both USFS and CalFire filed litigation against Sierra Pacific Industries for a fire in northern California. During the pre-trial proceedings it was revealed that CalFire had FALSIFIED information to place the blame on Sierra Pacific. Further investigation illuminated the fact that it was a Pacific Gas and Electric power lines arcing to trees had caused the fire. The litigaiton was dropped, PGE (while in bankruptcy) simply referred it all to the federal bankruptcy judge.

End result, Governor Newsom appointed a number of new persons to the California Public Utilities Commission, which then granted PGE rate increases over the next 10-years to further increase the highest energy rates in the US. All costs are on residential customers and not business/industrial customers furhter impacting residential rate payers.

The bankruptcy judge's actoins permitted PGE to largely escape liability charges but the corporation was convicted for the felony of manslaughter due to the death in that fire and others. So, we now have the highest residential electrical energy rates in the US and the only public utility providing such service as a convicted felon.

Wildfire litigaiton is a "targe rich environment" for any number of attorney's, local governments, public agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

John Mills

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