Mapleton, North Dakota man arrested for arson in bridge fire in Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County Sheriff's officer office arrested Ryan Johnson less than 24 hours after the fire occured.
DENT, Minn. — Those who live near Frank’s Memorial Bridge on Star Lake along County Highway 41 were in for a rude awakening in the early morning hours on Sunday.
“If you have ever heard a pile of gas go up, there is a definite ‘WOOPH’ noise to it. That’s what we heard,” said Mike Linnertz who lives by the damaged bridge.
After seeing smoke, Linnertz and his family walked outside to see the bridge was ablaze.
Immediately, he could tell it was no accident.
“The way the bridge was on fire. Both the sides – the walk paths – were completely engulfed on their own and then there was a pattern of flame on the asphalt on the bridge deck, so it was definitely arson. We knew it immediately,” said Linnertz.
Dent Fire and Rescue and Otter Tail County Deputies responded to the scene and found gasoline appeared to have been poured onto the bridge and several propane tanks were underneath.
Less than 24 hours after the fire began, the Sheriff’s Office arrested Mapleton, North Dakota’s Ryan Johnson on suspicion of arson.
Johnson owns a home right next to the bridge.
Neighbors say their community is pretty tight-knit and they knew Johnson hadn’t been at his best.
“I don’t know if it was him or not. He has had some issues lately that everybody around here has kind of noticed,” said Linnertz.
The reasons for Johnson’s alleged actions are still unclear.
Those who live nearby say they feel safe that something like this won’t happen again.
“They had a search warrant and came and searched through his whole house and took a bunch of stuff out of there,” said Linnertz. “For the first two nights, one to three officers sat out here around the clock, just making sure nobody came back and nothing else was going to happen.”
The Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing with the expected execution of several search warrants.