As It Happens

Saskatchewan man feels awful about historic bridge he set on fire

A resident from Porcupine Plain, SK, hasn't had much sleep since Friday. It was then that Brian Foster accidentally set a nearby wooden train bridge on fire, which had been a town landmark since 1929.
The creosote-laden timbers of a train bridge near Porcupine Plain, Sask., led to a spectacular fire Friday. Now, resident Brian Foster has come forward and said he was responsible for the blaze, after a grass fire got out of control. (Ross Telford/Facebook)

It didn't take long for a fire to completely destroy an historic wooden train bridge in Porcupine Plain, Sask. last Friday. And now, a nearby resident has come forward, claiming responsibility for the blaze.

Brian Foster lives 200 metres away from the bridge, which has been a landmark in the town since 1929 when it was first built. But on Good Friday, a controlled grass fire that Foster had started near his property spread quickly, and engulfed the bridge in flames. After the accident, Foster can't shake the deep sense of remorse he feels.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Foster about his guilt, and the community response to the blaze. Below is part of their conversation, transcribed.

Carol Off: Mr. Foster, what are people saying to you about the fire on the bridge?

Brian Foster: People have been amazingly supportive — very kind and empathetic, saying it was obviously an accident. [But] everyone knows I'm responsible for it. Some are looking at it as "accidents will happen," and others are saying "you should have known better." And they're right. I should have known better.

CO: Can you just tell us what happened — and how this bridge managed to go up in flames?

BF: Because there was so much snow on the ground here, I thought it would be a good opportunity to burn some grass off one of the public trails. I was burning that grass, and standing down by the bridge. A small bit of flame and grass ignited the creosote on the bridge timbers, and fire shot up to the top of the bridge.

The fire continued to burn overnight, destroying the train bridge in Porcupine Plain, Sask. (Patrick Mathieu/Facebook)

CO: You lived quite close to the bridge. What did it mean to you personally?

BF: My family spent a lot of time on, under and in sight of the bridge. We would walk out on the bridge, and down to the little valley below. We'd see moose, deer, great blue herons and Canada geese there. We took many shots of sunsets from the bridge. It was a beautiful bridge...and a tie to the past.

To hear more from Brian Foster about what happened take a listen to the full interview.

From 1929, an image captioned "First train over the bridge" near Porcupine Plain, Sask. (Stacy Disiewich/Facebook)