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Fire intentionally set on bridge near Iowa Falls, officials say

Damaged bridge (Hardin county photo)
Damaged bridge
(Hardin county photo)
ELDORA, IOWA – A fire on the South Fork Bridge along the proposed corridor for the new Iowa River Trail caused an estimated $90,000 worth of damage on Oct. 14. The Hardin County Sheriff’s Department suspects the fire was intentional, and is looking for information that may lead to a suspect.

The Hardin County Sheriff’s Department received a call the morning of Oct. 14 from a concerned citizen who noticed smoke rising from the timber just north of Gifford. The responding officer determined that the South Fork Bridge was on fire. The Eldora Fire Department responded and extinguished the fire.

An investigation is ongoing, but evidence at the scene strongly suggests that the blaze was intentional. Zone 3 State Fire Marshall Bryan Shupe explained that this fire would fall under Iowa State Code 712.3. “Arson in the second degree covers buildings, structure, and real property of any kind”, Shupe said. “It is a class “c” felony”. County, state, and federal charges could apply.

Damage to the bridge was extensive. Bryan McCombs, structural engineer for Shuck-Britson Inc., a division of Synder and Associates Engineers and Planners stated, “It appears that a 60 foot portion of the bridge was affected by the fire. A complete field inspection will need to be completed to assess the damage and determine the extent of required repairs. The construction cost estimate for complete replacement of the 60-foot section is $90,000. McCombs has been instrumental in the assessment of and engineering scope of all of the bridges included along the Iowa River Trail.

The South Fork Bridge is part of a larger federally-protected transportation corridor and eventual home for the Iowa River Trail, a 34-mile multi-use trail that will run from Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown. Chris Wieting, co-chair for the Hardin County Trail Commission stated, “While this is a disappointing obstacle, plans are in place to begin phase one of the project construction in late spring of 2016. We are very excited to move forward with our vision and look forward to partnering with our communities to make it a reality.”

Because of the extensive damage, the bridge is structurally unsafe for pedestrian use. Warning signs and fencing have closed access to the bridge. The Hardin County Trail Commission is offering a monetary reward for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction of any person or persons involved in the fire. Citizens are encouraged to come forward and may remain anonymous. Please contact the Hardin County Sheriff’s Department at (641) 939-8189.

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