Tbnewswatch Local News
Tuesday June 30 2015
8:01 PM EDT
2013-10-29 at 21:30

Bridge blaze

By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

A significant fire at the James Street Swing Bridge is under control.

Thunder Bay Fire Rescue responded to a blaze at the bridge Tuesday night as flames visibly engulfed the northern portion of the structure,

Fire Chief John Hay said the first call came in at approximately 7 p.m. and said there were no injuries reported.

“When they arrived there was quite a bit of flames and smoke from the north end of the bridge,” Hay described. “It’s going to be a little while for us to get this completely out.”

Story continues after video...


The flames appeared to be brought under control after about an hour, but smoke continued to billow out as crews focused their attention underneath the roadway's surface.

Hay explained the crews fought the fire from underneath the bridge at angles where firefighters would not be pinned by any falling debris, and added he kept personnel off the bridge itself. They also used a ladder as a visual aid to gain an elevated vantage point.

Firefighters treated the incident as a two-alarm fire due to the use of self-contained breathing apparatuses which required additional rescue crews to serve as backup. Hay estimated there were as many as 24 firefighters on scene.

The age of the timbers of the bridge, as well as an accumulation of grease and oils from the moving mechanisms on the underside of the bridge were providing challenges as crews looked to completely extinguish the fire, Hay explained.

Hay said both lanes of the bridge will be closed indefinitely, and advised commuters to take appropriate detours.

Structural engineers will have to examine the bridge and the resulting damage before a decision can be made on when it will re-open.

While it was too early for a cause to be determined, some witnesses reported hearing a large bang prior to flames being visible.

Hay also said crews are still not able to determine the full extent of the damage.

“We expect probably a quarter of the bridge may have had some contact with fire,” he commented. “We do know it was the north abutment of the bridge that was impacted where it meets the road bed.”

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nakajojakaem says:
Doug, I guess all those who think cn can do what they want have no memories of what cn had to do when they attempted to close and not rebuild the bridge that allowed people walking to cross the tracks. Sometimes know-it-alls must not know it all!!!! Lol
10/31/2013 2:17:50 PM
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JohnSmith says:
as a teacher you must know it all eh Doug?
10/31/2013 1:05:31 PM
didyoujusttypethat says:
Thunder Bay Transit DOES NOT use the James Street Swing bridge For the record you could not pay me enough to do what firemen have to do. They are the ones running into help when everyone else is running away. For anyone to have the gall to question how many fire fighters are needed when every time that alarm goes off they know lives are in danger. People should try to only complain and criticize about thing that they at least have SOME knowledge about.
10/31/2013 9:17:12 AM
grs says:
I'd be curious to know the verbage in the lease Doug talks about. Is it specific to dealing with the swing bridge and maintaining vehicle access on it?

If the contract is to provide any bridge, I forsee CN cheaping out and replacing it with a single lane bailey bridge.
10/30/2013 3:45:46 PM
Renegade120860 says:
Anybody want to wager, that we hear of the formation of the group "Friends of the James Street Bridge" soon?? :)
10/30/2013 3:39:03 PM
stopthehandouts says:

CN can do whatever they please, lease or no lease. The city doesnt have the money to go into a legal battle with CN should the lease be broken. Big brother always wins
10/30/2013 2:28:19 PM
DougMyers says:
Sorry but you cannot just do whatever you want on leased property.
10/30/2013 2:55:59 PM
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Onewoman'sopinion says:
I only hope that if my house ever burns I get more, rather than not enough firefighters. I cannot believe that this is even a discussion. They are doing their job, they know what they need and apparently are doing great all by themselves, without the help of the arm chair critics!
10/30/2013 2:12:05 PM
Bobguy says:
Although firetrucks are too large to cross the bridge, maybe an ambulance can. If not, a police car can as well as someone can exit the FWFN in a passenger vehicle to get to a hospital in an emergency. The point is that the bridge is an important link to a part of our community.

However good work on finding one fault to prove your superiority over the rest of us.
10/30/2013 1:12:55 PM
unknowncronik says:
most fire trucks are too large to cross the bridge... yep that's all I said...nothing more.
10/30/2013 2:25:54 PM
tbayretiree says:
The Westfort firetruck can cross the bridge. I know, I've been behind it on my way to get gas.

Once again, people posting comments without knowing the facts. Gotta love this comment forum.
10/30/2013 2:31:51 PM
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unknowncronik says:
@ tbayretiree:
If you noticed I said MOST FIRETRUCKS,

Once again, people posting comments without knowing the facts. Gotta love this comment forum.
10/30/2013 6:26:42 PM
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Jakub says:
Hope CN repairs the bridge and makes it again suitable for traffic. Personally, I use it on weakly basis to go the Chippewa park, Mt McKay, to take photos in the FWFN and the McKAY mountain range, and to get cheap gas.

10/30/2013 1:08:00 PM
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Dudebro says:
DougMeyers, give it up already! You've repeated the same thing 4 or 5 times. Enough
10/30/2013 12:45:22 PM
DougMyers says:
Apparently it needed to be repeated as others still posted the same reponses.

It's funny how you can read something like a word or say a name, have it right there in front of you, and still spell it wrong. The worst part is you were not the only one to do it.
10/30/2013 2:58:09 PM
northshore77 says:
Love when people spew garbage and don't know facts. Makes some of use look very intelligent.
10/30/2013 12:42:08 PM
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Harvey P. says:
Everyone stop.
Go back and read every one of DougMeyers comments.
The next person to post about the restriction of vehicular traffic is an idiot.

10/30/2013 12:37:54 PM
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Bejewel says:
I know many FWFN pedestrians that used that bridge. Kids who walk over it to get to and from school, other people walk to get to work. Going to be a very long walk to the highway. Not sure is a city bus run on City Road, but many I am sure have now been left stranded. Hope the city will accommodate the FWFN without cars in being able to get around.
And yes for all complaining about THEIR tax $$'s , sorry but if there is a rebuild it should be at the expense of every who has a use for that bridge CN, Tbay and its residents and FWFN
10/30/2013 12:33:52 PM
Tbayhabs33 says:
Just so everyone is clear...YES it is owned by the railway....NO they will not stop vehicle traffic because the agreement doesn't allow them to change that....and many of you complain about having tax payers pay for it and that it's ugly...I would love to see the city pay half for a new bridge out of our taxes...isn't that what it's for
10/30/2013 12:28:34 PM
cityisgreat says:
I never knew how many stupid people live in Thunder Bay. Quite remarkable
10/30/2013 12:17:59 PM
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chbaker says:
I sure don't want any City of Thunder Bay tax dollars to pay for any of it.
Not one penny.
10/30/2013 12:14:51 PM
oscarmyerweiner says:
Doug, the CN owns this bridge and if the city isn't going to pay for part of the bill do you really think they care about a lease. Why don't you comment on solutions instead of who's bridge it is. Everyone uses it, the city bus, commercial and industrial businesses, residential, Chippewa park, pedestrians,vehicles and trains, etc. Would you not think a joint effort would be most logical here. Split the build with all and stop pointing fingers.
10/30/2013 12:13:13 PM
Yougattabkiddingme says:
Fresh coat of paint, some new deck boards and it will be as good as gold! Is that bridge considered a Thunder Bay land mark?
10/30/2013 12:12:25 PM
REG says:
If the steel structure is fine than only the wood has to be replaced. If not than who knows.
10/30/2013 11:53:15 AM
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Carolyn S. says:
The bridge is owned by CN Rail. If they rebuild it, all they will care about is the passage of trains!
10/30/2013 10:39:04 AM
DougMyers says:
They must allow public vehicular traffic to cross as per the lease agreement with the city.
10/30/2013 11:09:13 AM
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Bobguy says:
I'm sure the fire department that you operate runs much more efficiently. The bridge is a very important piece of infrastructure, that would take years to replace. Without the bridge, the ability to respond to emergencies on FWFN would be slowed in the future.

Also, I believe the bridge is owned by the railway. I do not believe the city has to do the repairs.
10/30/2013 10:36:22 AM
unknowncronik says:
"Without the bridge, the ability to respond to emergencies on FWFN would be slowed in the future"
--> I don't think fire trucks can go over/fit on the bridge anyways, so their "ability to respond to emergencies" hasn't changed since the bridge blaze...
10/30/2013 11:06:57 AM
tsb says:
Firetrucks, city buses and cargo vehicles can go over the bridge. It is designed to carry trains, after all. It's not a weak bridge. It caught fire and burned violently for hours but is still completely intact. Those large timbers used to construct it build a thick layer of carbon on their surface when they catch fire, and that protects the interior and eliminates the risk of collapse because the fire can't burn through it to the middle of the log.
10/30/2013 8:00:53 PM
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Shallz says:
Is this bridge not owned by CN Rail??? If so then there is no taxpayer involvement if repairs or a new bridge is to be constructed
10/30/2013 10:30:51 AM
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youngtbay84 says:
the bridge is owned by the railway, not the city. Its up to them if they want to replace or fix the bridge. I'm sure if they don't they will get a lot of backlash from the communities. Glad no one was on it or injured.
10/30/2013 10:04:08 AM
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wannabuffybe says:
You guys can relax about the city's budget. The bridge is privately owned by CN Rail. They courteously let road traffic over the bridge, but maybe when it's rebuilt, it will be only for trains?
10/30/2013 9:29:25 AM
DougMyers says:
The contract that allows the bridge to exist specifically states it must be open to public vehicular traffic.

Nice to see people posting the usually uninfomred comments.
10/30/2013 10:56:49 AM
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aboriginalandproud says:
Some pretty prejudice remarks made about this incident. About taxpayers which divides us again, and the amount of fire fighters used I think that we should now breath no one was injured or killed by this fire and start working together in this country or maybe just become a middle east situation here.
Thank to all the firefighters and I am glad no of the firemen got hurt and anyone else ok.
10/30/2013 9:17:11 AM
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Archer says:
It seems that Patti is worried that 24 fire fighters is overkill. Unfortunately the same labour laws and safety regulations that protect workers in all industries protect fire fighters too. It would be much cheaper for us all to let these guys do their jobs with less resources and man power and get injured or worse. Safety should not be a factor in this profession. These guys don't have families?
I'm sure TBFR has a plan set out for deployment of manpower and recall of off duty personnel when required. Like the police the fire service is there for its citizens 24/7.
10/30/2013 9:11:18 AM
patti says:
Everyone loves firefighters. They save lives. They are strong and competent. They look good on calendars. People are always happy when they show up.


10/30/2013 11:59:38 AM
Tbay For Life says:
Why is everyone in this city so negative?
I think the structure of this bridge was beautiful, and one of the few last things standing in Thunder Bay that shows our history... I hope that they can save this structure!!!
Shame on all of you!
10/30/2013 9:10:15 AM
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alarmforce says:
Obviously a ``Gate Night`` prank. Hopefully they catch those responsible and make them pay!!
10/30/2013 9:08:18 AM
nads74 says:
To everyone complaining about tax payers having to fix the bridge...it is OWNED AND OPERATED BY CN RAIL...NOT THE CITY OF THUNDER BAY!!!!!!!!!!!
Really are you all new here??
10/30/2013 9:07:33 AM
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crazyforweed says:
If a new bridge is built or repaired is it not CNRails?? Im not a %100 sure but i dont believe the city will have to pay..
10/30/2013 9:03:31 AM
think before you post says:
Patti, are you part of the Emergency Services? Unless you are qualified don't raise doubt about the number of personnel used to respond to an emergency. If there was another fire else where they would react as trained. Thankfully no reported injuries.
10/30/2013 8:58:39 AM
Wes B says:
I believe this bridge is owned by CNR so the city isn't responsible for it.
As for it being an eyesore, beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose.
Lets not forget the amount of people that are going to suffer over this. There are 2 grain elevators over there that rely on that railway for grain. If they can't get cars, they can't dump/ship grain. No grain = no work. Resolute ships it's lumber via rail as well. Coastal Steel gets it's materials the same way. We can only hope that "IF" it gets fixed, it is a quick turn around.
10/30/2013 8:49:58 AM
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justsomegirl says:
And just let it burn? Because it's an eyesore? Its an old swing bridge, that is what they look like. Tim, love your comments on this one!
10/30/2013 8:41:57 AM
Aniishinbe says:
"They" are those who use the bridge. They are also whose property the bridge lies on. You are telling me that the reserve is the only patrons of the bridge? No other locals use the bridge to get gas; buy smokes or go up the mountain? The big question is who caused the loud bang and the fire? Obviously someone who doesn't use the access. Hiding behind "they" is unhelpful and fear mongering.
10/30/2013 8:38:19 AM
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justsomegirl says:
Isn't the bridge owned by one of the Rail Companies? Complaining about too many firemen at a fire on a structure that size...is there anything ever that would please all you cranky, negative whiners that dominate this site?
10/30/2013 8:32:25 AM
Oldtimerqt says:
Since CN is the owner ... Maybe they will just keep it for rail traffic ..
10/30/2013 8:24:18 AM
john says:
Isn't this bridge owned by CN or CP? Repairs will likely be covered by their insurance.
10/30/2013 8:20:23 AM
tbayhillbilly says:
"They" would be CN, who owns the bridge. I believe it was back in the late 80's/early 90's when the city offered to foot half of the bill to build a new bridge. The CNR declined. Folks who rant on here about taxes truly have no idea how the system works. If a new bridge needs to be built; it needs to be built, plain and simple. I pay my taxes for that exact reason: When infrastructure needs upgrading, it gets done.
10/30/2013 8:17:24 AM
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mazda323 says:
Yes, 24 firefighters. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if people kept driving over the bridge with the fire underneath. You know, like they kept driving on Arundel Street when it was closed, because "nobody said why it was closed". Would have been pretty tragic if someone wound up in the water underneath the bridge.
10/30/2013 7:43:52 AM
madtrapper says:
There is already another way there so big deal. If I were the railroad that would be shut down to road traffic anyhow. The idle no more movement was yapping about shutting down the bridge last summer. I'm sure the city gas stations wouldn't mind if they had more business. Shut it down!!
10/30/2013 7:00:00 AM
DougMyers says:
The railway cannot shut down the bridge to vehicular traffic as per the lease agreement with the city.
10/30/2013 11:02:34 AM
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smartguy83 says:
It is possible to amend an agreement. Don't be so sure...
10/30/2013 2:46:34 PM
yellowsnow says:
@patti. I think the fact that firefighters are trained professionals, they know how many firefighters to send out. Probably a safe bet that if there was an emergency elsewhere, they would have dealt with it too.

10/30/2013 6:54:26 AM
Tbayhabs33 says:
Really Patti...r u going to comment on the amount of fire fighters on scene, r u a fire chief...most likely not, but maybe if you ever need one maybe they will just send 1 to your house see how that works out
10/30/2013 6:28:05 AM
northshore77 says:

If there is 12 firefighters on the scene fighting the fire with a "self-contained breathing apparatuses" there must be a back up firefighter for each man waiting to go in after them or so save there own man.
10/30/2013 6:27:19 AM
livewire says:
Thumbs Up to the Fire Fighters. A dirty job but someone has to do it.
10/30/2013 6:22:33 AM
Freshtb says:
Isn't it owned by the railway!!?
10/30/2013 5:37:14 AM
herewegoagain says:
hey,, tim,,ya,they,,were talking about building a new bridge,,you no who they are,,cpr,the city,first nations, it benifits everyone,dont worry where the money comes from,its there,,an yes patti,,good thing your kid wasnt stuck on that bridge at the time, huh
10/30/2013 3:50:21 AM
stopthehandouts says:
The bridge is owned by CN Rail, nothing to do with the city. Its a privlidge CN allows public vehicles to use it in the first place.
10/30/2013 2:28:53 AM
DougMyers says:
No it is not a privilege.

For use of the city land the railway must have the bridge open to vehicular traffic as part of the contract and lease.

Perhaps become informed prior to commenting and making false statements.
10/30/2013 11:01:31 AM
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unknowncronik says:
Canadian National Railway Co. who finished 2012 with record revenue should fix the bridge properly if that's the case...I didn't know that...ya learn something new everyday!!!

hopefully no more clackity clack clack speedbump clakity clack clack speedbump clackity clack clack speedbump...
10/30/2013 2:32:15 PM
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jimg says:
Should start discussions now to replace,4 way split..CN,Federal,Provincial & city. Each has a responibility in replacing if needed and/or repairing.
10/30/2013 2:18:41 AM
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tibizh says:
If this was any other bridge, would it have such negative and un-concerning comments???
Seems to me, that if it was any other bridge in or around Thunder Bay, there would be concern for the people who live on the other side of the bridge and who use the bridge on a daily basis... But for SOME reason, hmmmm, wonder why this is not the case with this particular bridge.....
10/30/2013 2:04:40 AM
DougMyers says:
Perhaps because there is good access at Hwy 61 with a much better bridge.
10/30/2013 10:59:30 AM
Sandwiches1123 says:
Most other bridges in Thunder Bay wouldn't catch on fire because they are made of concrete which isn't a natural fuel source for fire.

I don't understand your comment about the concern for the people who live on the other side of the bridge. The closest residents are in the area between the bridge and Montreal Street. The closest residents on the other side of the bridge live on City or Chippewa Road, which is much further away.

For anyone living on the Fort William First Nation; City Road, Mountain Road, etc, they can access Highway 61 to get across the Kam River. Yes, it is inconvenient but it is just as inconvenient to access McKeller or Mission Island to go to the Marsh, marina, OPG, etcetera. Again, I don't get why you'd bring that comment into this story.
10/30/2013 11:08:11 AM
grs says:
Or perhaps the people that are concerned about the people who live on the other side don't really feel like commenting about the fact that they are concerned. But the same people that are concerned DO feel like commenting about inferred racist tones you're implying without any cause.

Got any other conspiracy theories to share?
10/30/2013 11:45:04 AM
chbaker says:
I do believe that bridge is owned by CN or CP or whatever railway company.
And they are surely not obligated to build a new bridge...
Maybe a train bridge for themselves.. Maybe.

So, if a new bridge for cars is to be built who would bear the cost?
10/30/2013 1:16:30 AM
DougMyers says:
Not obligated to build a new bridge but they do need it to access the tracks on the other side.

The contract for the use of hte land states that if they have bridge it must be open to public vehicular traffic.
10/30/2013 10:58:26 AM
joey joe joe jr. shabadoo says:
A buddy sent me this pic he took of the bridge on fire, plus I've also heard facebook has a few videos posted online also...
10/30/2013 12:33:19 AM
patti says:
24 fire fighters ??

Thank goodness there wasn't an emergency elsewhere.
10/30/2013 12:07:59 AM
fluffy says:
I was just thinking the same thing. Usually about double the amount of firefighters working than front line cops working the streets on any given day. Based on the crime rate here in this city and the fire rate I'm thinking it should be the other way around.
10/30/2013 8:38:57 AM
bttnk says:
@ patti - I was thinking the same exact thing. 24 firefighters? The fire posed no direct risk to anyone! Complete nonsense.
10/30/2013 8:47:18 AM
GrapeSoda says:
Wait... a major structure fire is not an emergency? I am sure if there was another fire they would split up their units to address both. Love the way you click your agree button so many times to :P
10/30/2013 8:55:13 AM
nfa16 says:
Are you a firefighter? Just wondering, seeing that you appear so knowledgeable about how responders should be utilized. It even states in the article as to the reasons 24 firefighters were needed :P
10/30/2013 9:06:17 AM
i76 says:
funny, patti would be the praising the firefighters if her house was on fire, good job guys
10/30/2013 10:37:26 AM
anarnosti says:
The power wires under the bridge were a huge risk... who are you to determine how many emergency response crews are required... there was a potential for that fire to get much worse but they kept it at bay.. be thankful everyone's safe instead of complaining.
10/30/2013 10:46:06 AM
tsb says:
How do power lines work on a bridge that pivots on a central platform? Does power turn off when it is open? And what is the purpose of the tall power line running beside the bridge?

Oh, maybe, that bridge doesn't carry any power lines. Maybe.
10/30/2013 7:43:15 PM
DougMyers says:
Hmm lets see,

A structural fire on a bridge over open and deep water. A structure that contains electrical and media lines as well as a gas line.

In addition a struction that is build with large amount of wood soaked in oils and creosote, thus emitting toxic fumes.

I would say that having to use breathing equipment is warranted and having a back up man for each man on the job is warranted as well. Had they not had backups and someone have been injured or killed you would be the first to cry foul.

Perhaps leave those decisions to the people trained to do so.
10/30/2013 11:06:18 AM
hadenough says:
Although I agree with your general statement, gas and power go under the river. There is a primary feed to power the mechanism but the "main" lines are under the river, hence the no dragging anchor signs posted above and below the structure.
10/30/2013 12:49:14 PM
smartguy83 says:
Buried under the water I believe. Please do research before commenting if you are going to insult everyone.
10/30/2013 2:47:29 PM
DougMyers says:
I guess they would have to be since the bridge swings around.

I still stand by the point I was attempting to make and retrack that part of my comments.

However I am not sure why I would be insulting EVERYONE?
10/30/2013 3:00:14 PM
hadenough says:
Speaking for myself, no insult taken. Easy mistake to make.
10/30/2013 5:47:51 PM
mikevirtanen1961 says:
While the fire was going on, I saw a fire truck and team attending to an issue with Union Gas in the North core. They know how to handle multiple issues at once.
10/30/2013 11:12:28 AM
AnonymousOne says:
I don' think this does any good for the budget of Thunder Bay, already over budget the repair/remaking of a bridge may be a slow process
10/29/2013 11:14:54 PM
young&concerned says:
The city (I mean the tax payers) better not be footing the bill for a new bridge! Hobbs is likely at his kitchen table right now with the graph paper out designing a new one!
10/29/2013 11:10:09 PM
xquisiteroughpatch says:
Well considering it's owned by CP Rail, I think it would be on them as to whether or not another one is built.
10/30/2013 8:06:41 AM
fastball says:
I'm pretty sure building a bridge that size won't be funded municipally...at least not totally, anyways.
Even so...what are the options? Just leaving it? Not rebuilding it?
10/30/2013 8:51:22 AM
Escroft says:
They should have let it just burn down so they'd have no choice but to build a new bridge. That thing's an eyesore, just like the dilapidated elevator along that riverside in Westfort.
10/29/2013 10:42:11 PM
joey joe joe jr. shabadoo says:
ESCROFT: The bridge is private property of CN RAIL & I bet they will only be worried about the "train crossing" & will probably remove the vehicle traffic for good.

They have no responsibility to fix it so cars can cross, just their trains.
10/30/2013 12:35:54 AM
eaglem says:
FYI City of Thunder Bay doesn't own the bridge. Its owned by CN Rail and not they have an excuse to stop Vehicle traffic crossing like they have wanted for years. Don't be surprised if they only open rail traffic up.
10/30/2013 10:06:04 AM
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