Friday, June 25, 2010

Royal Gorge Route Temporarily Closed By Wildfire

The Parkdale Canyon fire posted yesterday is 85% contained with full containment expected by tomorrow (Sat). The fire started Monday just after noon, with some witnesses claiming the flames started shortly after the Royal Gorge Route passed nearby on it's 12:30 p.m. run.

Later that day, Fremont County Coroner, Dr. Dorothy Twellman watched her 4,400 sq. ft. home and horse barn fall victim to the fire. While they were able to evacuate all the animals, very little else was preserved. She and her roommate are both devastated by the fire.

Since the fire started, the Royal Gorge Route has suspended their service through the Gorge. They hope to resume Saturday morning. Finger pointing and small town politics has already started, but railroads have always had a potential to spark wildfires, even after dieselization, especially if the right of way is neglected, as it often can be in recession years. A spokesperson for the Royal Gorge Route gave Colorado Railroads the following statement,
As you know, it’s certainly possible for a train to ignite a fire in a dry climate – that’s why we work so hard to run a truly safe operation and engineer our trains to minimize fires.  We don’t yet know what caused the fire, so we will continue to do the right thing by letting the investigators do their work while we focus on getting back to business as soon as possible so that the community can get back to business as usual too.
Hopefully, the fire is just about out, thanks to the firefighters and volunteers, and insurance companies can begin to move the claims forward. Canon City is a town that for more than a century has profited largely from a natural wonder and the bridge, railroad, and other attractions built in and around it. The Rio Grande even prospered by marketing the Royal Gorge, even naming a train after it. What would have been truly disastrous would be a mismanaged fire raging for weeks, choking the area with smoke and ash, gutting houses, and taking a chunk of tourism business with it. Thanks to cooperative weather, quick action, good management and hard work, the Parkdale Canyon fire is under control and nearly out.

A postcard by the Rio Grande advertising the Royal Gorge

Editor's Note: This post was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it was delayed until Saturday at 11:15 AM.

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