Durango fire rages, closing railroad two more weeks

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION | COLORADO | WEST
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Wildfire
Fire is burning in timber along U.S. Route 550 on June 1. The fire started near the route of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado.
U.S. Forest Service
DURANGO, Colo. — With a massive wildfire continuing to rage in the hills near Hermosa, Colo., the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad announced Tuesday that it will be closed for at least two weeks.

In a news release, officials say trains will not resume until at least Sunday, June 17. Railroad officials say they came to the decision “following extensive consultation with local authorities and agencies regarding their progress in containing the 416 Fire and the status of current fire, drought and weather conditions.”

The railroad had previously suspended operations through June 10.

The 416 Fire was first reported on June 1 and since then has scorched nearly 3,000 acres, mostly in the San Juan National Forest about 10 miles north of Durango. More than 800 homes have been evacuated. Firefighters expect the fire to grow in the coming days as hot and dry conditions persists across southwest Colorado.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Railroad officials say when train service between Durango and Silverton does resume, it will most likely be with diesel locomotives in an effort to reduce the chance of starting additional fires with cinders from the steam locomotives. A speeder with water and firefighting equipment follows every train during the summer to put out spot fires and the railroad even leases a helicopter to extinguish blazes.

This is not the first time a wildfire has forced the closure of the line to Silverton. In 2002, the 72,000-acre Missionary Ridge Fire, forced the railroad to suspend operations for 45 days.
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