The fire on Thunder Bay's James Street swing bridge has re-ignited debate over whether it should be replaced.

The bridge has linked the city and Fort William First Nation for more than a century, but neither community has the power to decide its future.

Tory Trunrud

Thunder Bay Museum curator Tory Tronrud displays a photo illustration of the James Street bridge as it looked when it was built in 1908. (Adam Burns/CBC)

Thunder Bay Museum curator Tory Tronrud said the swing bridge was built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1908.

"The city had a hand in building it,” he said. “They paid $50,000 ... and, in return for that, they got perpetual use of the bridge.”

Rebecca Johnson

Thunder Bay councillor Rebecca Johnson. (Supplied)

A few years later, Grand Trunk was no longer in business, but a similar agreement is still in place with current owner Canadian National Railways.

Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs said that means it's ultimately up to the company whether the bridge is replaced.

“Maybe it's time that CN looks at that,” he said. "That bridge has been a big issue lately."

James St. bridge fire

What caused the blaze on the James Street bridge earlier this week in Thunder Bay is still being determined. (@melindaroady/Twitter)

City councillor Rebecca Johnson said it might be opportune to look at options now.

"There is a point in time when that bridge will not be able to be used, for all kinds of reasons,” she said. “Maybe the fire has upped that in regards to timing."

A spokesperson for CN declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation into the fire.

In the meantime, the chief of Fort William First Nation said she'll approach the city and CN to talk about replacing the bridge.

For now, the nearly 9,000 drivers who travel the bridge every day will have to take the long way around.