Green River Star -


County may bill UP for fire costs


November 8, 2017

The county may bill the Union Pacific Railroad over costs associated with fighting a wildfire east of Rock Springs.

Two weeks ago, the county fire department was dispatched to fight a fire near Tipton Road, which was caused by UP employees grinding rails as part of maintenance work on nearby tracks.

The fire quickly expanded to more than 450 acres before being contained. Damages included power poles owned by Rocky Mountain Power, as well as railroad ties and some fencing.

While giving his report to the board of county commissioners, Commissioner Randy Wendling said fire warden Mike Bournazian had approached him about billing UP for their costs associated with fighting the fire.

The costs of fighting the fire haven’t been tabulated, but Wendling said if the county moves forward with billing UP, others, including Rocky Mountain Power and the Bureau of Land Management, would likely follow suit.

BLM fire crews helped contain the Tipton Fire.

“It would set a precedence,” Wendling said.

Wendling said he thinks the county should bill the railroad company due to where projected revenues are going for the county and believes a bill should issued in an attempt to help change the company’s safety procedures. Wendling said the rail grinding was taking place while 50 mph winds were blowing through the area. The other commissioners agreed with Wendling, with Commissioner John Kolb saying UP would likely continue their current practices if they’re not billed for the county’s fire fighting costs.

“I’d feel better if we billed them,” Kolb said.


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