Arson suspected in Bruce County, Ont. rail trail bridge fire

There’s just charred wood left behind from a fire that destroyed an historic rail bridge in Paisley over the weekend.

“Firefighters saw the heavy black smoke pretty much as soon as they left the firehall. But, access to this area is very difficult,” says Paisley’s Acting Fire Chief Dave Teeple.

Inaccessible by fire tanker, fire crews from Paisley, Tiverton, Saugeen Shores, Walkerton and Bruce Power, had to use ATVs to shuttle water over a kilometre to the old rail trail bridge that stretches over Willow Creek.

“We just couldn’t reach it. We couldn’t get enough host stream length to reach it because it was moving away so quick, and we couldn’t get out on the burnt part of the bridge,” says Teeple.

The fire, which was spotted around 5 p.m. on Saturday, started in the middle of the bridge, and is being treated as arson.

“It’s absolutely suspicious. It’s not something where a passerby flicked out a cigarette. Absolutely not. This is, in my mind, something intentionally set,” Teeple says.

That’s hard to take for Paisley residents, who love their rail trail bridges, two of which look out over the town.

“It’s a peaceful place. A place for bird watching, or first kisses. To think it was set deliberately is really hard to take,” says Arran-Elderslie Councillor Melissa Kanmacher.

The bridge will be closed indefinitely.

Teeple says with the damage contained to the wood surface and not the metal frame, he’s hopeful it will be rebuilt, but that will be up to Bruce County engineers.

The closure will leave the community without a vital tourist attraction that brings walkers, hikers and ATV riders to the community.

“We rely on those visitors, those ATV travellers that come into town and visit our restaurants and grocery stores and ice cream shops,” says Paisley Chamber of Commerce Secretary Sandra Crockard.

Kanmacher says the community is grateful for the hard work firefighters put in to contain the fire, and are thankful it wasn’t worse.

She says the community is eager to find out exactly how the fire started as they work towards the bridge’s reconstruction.

In the meantime, the Rail Trail Trestle Bridge through Paisley will remain off limits for the time being.

And the South Bruce OPP is asking anyone with surveillance video of the area leading to the Willow Creek Bridge between 12 p.m. on June 4 and 12 p.m. on June 6 to contact them at 1-888-310-1122.