Rebuilt after 2011 arson, Gatineau bridge again gutted by fire

Gatineau police are investigating possible arson after fire again destroyed the Brabant-Philippe covered pedestrian bridge early Tuesday morning.

'It's very hard to understand why someone would be stupid enough to do this,' Gatineau mayor says

A covered bridge in Gatineau, Que., was destroyed by fire Tuesday morning. 0:33

Fire has once again destroyed a covered wooden bridge in the Templeton neighbourhood of Gatineau, Que., and the city's mayor says he's angered by the thought it could have been another case of arson.

At 2:45 a.m. Tuesday, emergency crews were called to a fire on the Brabant-Philippe covered pedestrian bridge behind the Campeau Arena, near Highway 148 and Lorrain Boulevard.

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin says improving healthcare in the region is the area's number one need. (CBC)

Officials confirmed later Tuesday that the bridge was destroyed. Damage is estimated at about $1 million.

"We're all very angry this morning. It was something very precious that was built by volunteers. We have three of those bridges and it's very hard to understand why someone would be stupid enough to do this," Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said Tuesday morning, adding that he hopes to have the bridge rebuilt again.

"I think we must not let the community down, but it will have to come with some more security measures, obviously."

Gatineau police say they're investigating the possibility that this fire — the bridge's fourth in five years — was another arson.

The bridge was destroyed and damage is estimated at about $1 million. (Jean-Sébastien Marier/Radio-Canada)

'We can't understand why'

The bridge crosses Gatineau's Rivière Blanche and is one of three in the area, all maintained by the Rivière Blanche improvement association.

"It's incredible. We can't understand why people burn our bridge like this," said Daniel Turmel, a teacher who volunteers for the association, on Tuesday.

"[I'm] frustrated, because [the city] worked so hard to rebuild this bridge and now it's gone. ... We have to meet together, all the members of the corporation, and we will see what we can do in the next weeks. 

"We worked so hard for this."

Daniel Turmel, a volunteer with the Rivière Blanche improvement association, says he can't understand why people would want to burn down the bridge the city and volunteers worked hard to rebuild. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Previous incidents

  1. Dec. 30, 2011: The bridge was destroyed in a fire that had been deliberately set. Four teenagers were later charged with arson. It took the municipality years to rebuild the bridge, and it was reopened to the public in June 2015. 
  2. July 28, 2015: A month after the bridge reopened, vandals set fire to the bridge once again. Damage was minimal, thanks in part to fire retardant materials used in the rebuild. Suspects were never identified despite public pleas for assistance.
  3. June 14, 2016: Flames and smoke were seen coming from the bridge at about 4:45 p.m. and firefighters were called. It didn't take long for crews to bring the fire under control but some of the wooden structure was damaged. Police confirmed the incident was an arson and asked for the public's help. No suspects have been identified.

Security cameras were in the works

Bernard Marion, a security volunteer with the Rivière Blanche improvement association, said that after last week's fire the corporation scouted out locations to put up security cameras.

They were preparing to issue a tender for proposals when the bridge was destroyed, Marion said.

The association's executive director, Eugene Boudreau, said it was a "disgusting feeling" to see the damage caused by the most recent fire.

"I even had second thoughts about coming over to see it in reality, because it brings back the horror of the pictures I saw when the first one was burnt back in 2011," he said.

"It makes me wonder whether it's worth going through all the efforts we put together as a group of volunteers, to give our time ... to bring something to this community that, to me, is very important."

Firefighters were called to the Brabant-Philippe covered bridge in Gatineau, Que., early Tuesday morning. (CBC)