Massive fire destroys historic train bridge in Porcupine Plain, Sask.
Structure built in 1929 for train traffic was no longer in use
An historic bridge in the town of Porcupine Plain, Sask., was reduced to embers after it caught fire on Friday, in a spectacular blaze that has been linked to a grass fire that got out of control, according to RCMP.
Crews responded around 3:30 p.m. CST to the fire at the defunct bridge, which was built in 1929.
In a statement Saturday, RCMP said the structure was a total loss.
"A local home owner had set a grass fire that had gone out of control and spread to the bridge," RCMP said. "The blaze was contained and no other structures were damaged."
They said no charges had been laid but added their investigation was still underway.
Murray Althouse, assistant fire chief for the community, said the east portion of the bridge caught fire first and it quickly spread.
"In a matter of a few minutes it went from maybe containable, not likely containable, to completely engulfed," Althouse said.
Local resident Dean Frank was in town washing his car when he saw black smoke billowing from the area of the bridge. He drove over to check it out.
"The fire department was already there," he said. "They started pumping water on it, but it just started spreading way too quick."
The bridge was oil-soaked, according to Althouse, which made the fire difficult to put out. It burned for about ten hours and was still smouldering Saturday morning, he noted.
A town historic site
The bridge was a well-known landmark in the area. The rail tracks for the bridge were removed a few years ago.
Althouse said it was a bit of a shock to see it go.
"Everybody's got stories of playing on the bridge and walking on the bridge and hanging out, as young people always did," he said.
Frank said a few dozen people showed up to watch the fire adding that some of older community members were saddened by the loss.
The bridge had become a symbol for how important the railway had been for the town's development.
"Now the bridge is gone. Pretty soon we won't even know there was a railroad around here," Frank said.
Porcupine Plain is a town of about 900 people about 300 kilometres northeast of Regina, in the central eastern part of the province.
With files by Brian Rodgers