Fire Swarms Railroad Bridge in Downtown Grand Forks

Because there was limited access to the fire, officials said more manpower was needed to carry equipment

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — “It was like a tornadic cloud of smoke,” Annette Sullivan said. “It hovered over the whole place.”

Grand Forks Fire Department responded to South 3rd Street and Kittson Avenue just before 6:00a.m. after reports of a fire at the BNSF railroad bridge.

“Crews arrived on scene, heavy flames from one of the supports down below, made of wood,” said Grand Forks Fire battalion chief Rick Aamot. “And it was a lot of fire.”

While the fire wasn’t too difficult to put out, five engine crews were needed to bring in equipment to the location of the flames due to limited access.

About 20 firefighters extinguished the fire.

Because they had to carry a five inch hose, fire department officials said they needed all the manpower they could get.

“Flames could be 20 feet higher than the bridge itself but the fire is at the base, and you put the fire out at the base,” Aamot said. “The wood, the support structure, that was all burning.”

Sullivan was relieved to find out it was just the bridge on fire and not local businesses.

“I didn’t know if I’d have a job this morning when I came to work,” Sullivan said. “Mostly though, I prayed for all the residents downtown.”

One firefighter suffered an injury to his hand but was treated and released from the hospital.

The damage to the bridge was described by officials as “moderate” and BNSF crews said they will begin repairs immediately.

The Greenway bike path and walking paths will remain closed by the bridge and its nearby structures.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, but the fire department and BNSF will continue their investigation.

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