Soap Box

Coming clean on cause of 416 Fire

To the editor,

You don’t need to be a fire expert to uncover the culprit of the 416 Fire in Durango. All clues point to the train: videos, witness accounts and the map of the fire on June 1, which shows the initial burn starting right at the train track. Yet authorities have not named the cause of the fire and are “still investigating.” Is it a cover up?

Transparency and accountability is important in this investigation. So we urge authorities to do the right thing for all the inhabitants of La Plata County.

For those who may not know, train coal engines spew embers from the chimney, which regularly start fires. So much so that each train is followed by a cart with a water tank to extinguish the train’s fires. So the use of coal engines to operate the train in an extreme drought and heat ? when a fire ban is in effect ? is purely and simply reckless. As a community we need to take future measures so that such disaster never happens again. One measure is simple: forbid the use of coal engines during droughts, replacing them with diesel engines, which are safer.

No one in this town wants to see the train go away as it is an engine ? pun intended ? of our tourist economy. But this fire ? and potentially future fires if we don’t take drastic prevention measures ? will further devastate our lands and bankrupt our economy. Who will come to Durango to ride/hike trails in a charred forest? Who is going to ride the train if the Animas Valley is a spectacle of burnt desolation?

The economic cost of wildfires is astronomical and far reaching. In a study by the BLM (“The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.,” at districts/roseburg/plans/collab_forestry/files/TrueCostOfWilfire.pdf) explains that wildfires have direct costs (the obvious cost of fire suppression/firefighting, but also the cost of burned property, damaged infrastructure such as roads or powerlines, aid to evacuated residents, loss of timber resources), and indirect costs (loss of tax revenue, business revenue, property value, crop and timber harvesting loss). Indirect costs are also called “impact” costs (mostly economic) and can extend years after the fire is out. But there are also additional long-term costs, which include extensive loss of aesthetic and scenic beauty, loss of wildlife and ecosystems, and long-term effects on people’s health, some of which are difficult to quantify.

The Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002 burned for 39 days, ravaging about 73,000 acres, destroying 46 houses and cabins, and killing one person. According to the BLM study, direct fire suppression costs of the Missionary Ridge Fire amounted to $37.7 million and other direct costs to $52.6 million. Rehabilitation costs were at $8.6 million, indirect costs at $50.5 million, and additional costs at $3.4 million. In all, the Missionary Ridge Fire total cost was $152.8 million.

The cost of the 416 Fire will be staggering. So, as a community we need to find out what really happened (and be transparent) and make sure that this never happens again. For now, the whole community is bracing itself and hopes to minimize its losses. We all thank the firefighters for the tremendous work they are doing to keep us safe and contain the fire. Pray for rain.

– Cecile Patrick, Durango

Walsworth will get it done right

To the editor,

I met Tim Walsworth while serving on the board of the United Way of Southwest Colorado many years ago. While on the board, Tim reinforced the importance of financial integrity and transparency for every penny that someone donates to the organization. With his leadership and management expertise, anyone who donates to the United Way of Southwest Colorado could be assured their donations were being used in a responsible way with vigorous oversight.

His competency in accounting, auditing and tight control of public funds add up to fiscal responsibility. Problems in the Treasurer’s Office such as a high turnover rate have cost local taxpayers. Although I do appreciate the current treasurer owning up to her shortcomings (see Durango Herald March 3, 2017: “Work piles up as county treasurer’s office faces staff, procedural problems”), why pay for more audit fees and make excuses for errors when it can get done right the first time?

Tim’s proven expertise to maintain and account for complex financial funds make him a stellar candidate for treasurer. Vote Tim Walsworth for La Plata County Treasurer in June’s primary.

– Sara Carver, Durango

Walsworth best person for the job

To the editor,

Do your part to help La Plata County reconcile the books. I’ve been told they’re a mess – here’s the solution: Vote for Tim Walsworth for treasurer in the upcoming primary election on June 26! Here’s why: I could cite all the typical boring reasons like solid ethics, high integrity, professional conduct and intelligence – all of which are obviously true. But I’m writing today to explain the reasons why I’m personally going to vote for Tim. He’s honest. He executes on well thought-out initiatives, and he doesn’t procrastinate. Qualities not present in the current Treasurer’s Office.

I’ve known Tim for nearly 30 years – so I speak from experience. I’ve worked and played alongside him. From the yearly United Way Radiothon to the comradery on the softball field, he’s a natural leader.

Ballots are due by June 26. New this year, unaffiliated voters can vote in the primary election.

Tim Walsworth is the best person for La Plata County treasurer. Join me in voting for him.

– Larry Holiday, Durango

Tipton is part of the problem

To the editor,

Climate change is real and is a threat to our economy and our way of life. It’s time we had a member of Congress who not only believes that climate change is real, but who will DO something about it.

Scott Tipton is part of the problem, as he consistently supports the oil and gas industry and cares more about their financial support than our way of life in Colorado. He has failed to recognize the consistent signs of the horrible tragedies such as the wildfires in the West, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the drought in Montana and the Dakotas – and now the unprecedented and “exceptional drought” in Southwest Colorado. The Reagan White House discussed these threats posed by climate change in the 1980s.

He refused to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and supports the expansion of drilling in our public lands. We need a person in the 3rd Congressional District who will be a leader in this area, and many others.

That person is Karl Hanlon, a rancher, water attorney, former park ranger and an experienced leader in Colorado.

He has developed his climate plan which included these seven areas: recommit to the Paris Climate Accord; 80 percent renewables by 2050; stand up to oil and gas; protect our public lands; bolster renewables; stop Donald Trump’s EPA from repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan; and defend emissions standards. Details around each of these areas can be found at

I am convinced that Karl has the personal qualities, experience, commitment and passion necessary to represent our District. And oh, by the way, he is not taking money from any PACs – only from the people of our district. Please support him and return your ballot!

– Jigger Staby, Durango

Aichele rose to challenges

To the editor,

I didn’t vote for Allison Aichele when she ran for La Plata County Treasurer in 2014. She was an unknown. I didn’t want to cast my vote “just because she was female.” I fell prey to the “old ways are the best ways” method of thinking. I was wrong. I was really wrong.

But I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that as I read the multiple coverages in the Herald that delineated the accumulating expenditures for the changes that were being made by her in that very sensitive office.

I judged. I muttered to myself that yes, she had experience in the tech world, but maybe not so much in the financial world of political dollars and cents sense for this county. How much was it going to cost the county to educate this newly elected treasurer ... because unless a person has had prior governmental treasurer experience, there is bound to be a steep learning curve. How many missteps would be made? I didn’t know.

I was not in that office. I was not behind that desk.

And I certainly did not have the vision she had. So what could I expect?

Beyond my wildest expectations and through some genuinely difficult times, Allison brought the Treasurer’s Office into the twenty-first century. Yes, there were glitches that occurred. Some were predictable, some were not. Through it all, Allison rose to these challenges, stuck to her guns with integrity, mounted a resolved determination and persevered with the gumption to get this job done and get it done well ... so she did and continues to do.

This time Allison will get my vote. I encourage you to do the same.

– Suzanne Cramer, Durango