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Bridge blaze

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

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.”

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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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