A huge fire tore through a railway bridge in Vancouver Wednesday near the Oak Street Bridge, a four-lane connector which crosses the Fraser River, linking the city with Richmond, B.C.

The late afternoon fire sent enormous clouds of black smoke billowing into the air above the Marpole Railroad Bridge, a rarely used trestle bridge which runs alongside the road bridge.

Firefighters and a Vancouver fireboat on scene managed to get the fire under control quickly, dousing what was left of the railway structure and trestles.

Deputy Fire Chief Brian Godlonton said 38 firefighters were on scene for the two alarm call at one point.

“What made the fire very difficult initially was that it was burning very hot, very fast, due to the old structure, soaked in creosote,” said Godlonton.

The fire limited visibility on the Oak Street Bridge, which was shut down in both directions for a short time but has now reopened.

An investigation is now underway by both Canadian Pacific Railway and police and fire officials to determine how the fire started, and whether it was deliberately set.

"We have CP engineering experts who are going to be conducting a full investigation of the structure to determine the extent of the damage," said Ed Greenberg, CP's director of external affairs.

The Marpole Railroad Bridge, which is owned by the Canadian Pacific, was built in 1902 and is part of a disused rail line known as the Arbutus corridor which winds its way through many Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Oak Street Bridge Fire Reddit

The fire appeared to be on the railway trestles next to the Oak Street Bridge. (IH8XC/Reddit)

Since the rail line closed 15 years ago, the inactive right of way has become a popular dog walking spot, and sprouted community fruit and vegetable gardens along the route in other areas of the city.

However, after development negotiations with city officials failed, CP recently ordered all property along the Arbutus corridor, including community gardens, be removed by July 31 and said the line may reopen.

On mobile? Click here for a YouTube video of the fire from the Oak Street bridge

On mobile? Click here for a YouTube video of the fire from the Skytrain to Waterfront