Ranch park bridge burns, arson suspected
Joel Rathje, Lassen County trails manager, surveys the damage to the bridge located in Susanville Ranch Park that was discovered burning in the early morning of Friday, May 18.Photo by Margie Teeter
May 29, 2012 — An early morning run in Susanville Ranch Park turned into a 911 call to local authorities. While the case is still under investigation, the unofficial cause of the fire is arson.
At approximately 5 a.m. Friday, May 18, local residents Camille Buehler and Sue Cooper arrived at Susanville Ranch Park and immediately noticed a glow coming from the vicinity of the bridge that connects Old Paul Bunyan Road to the meadow.
Buehler said they immediately called 911 and then began walking toward the source of the glow. As they got closer they realized the bridge was on fire and the flames were getting bigger by the minute.
“It was very scary because it was just getting bigger and bigger and we were waiting for the fire trucks to come,” said Buehler. “I’ve never been so close to flames like that.”
According to Joel Rathje, trails coordinator for Lassen County, the bridge is totaled. In his opinion, the bridge burnt hot and fast which could not have happened without an accelerant.
“This is a big deal,” said Rathje. “The bridge can be replaced. What I’m concerned about is that someone is capable of this and they are still out there.”
The fire did not spread any further than the bridge thanks to it being directly over Piute Creek and because there were no trees and only green bushes nearby. Rathje said because the fire was reported early and Calfire got right on it, it didn’t get as bad as it could have.
Originally built by local Boy Scouts, the rebuilding of the bridge is already in the works. Rathje said a younger brother of a Boy Scout who worked on the bridge in the past, wants to rebuild the bridge for his Eagle Scout project.
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