Fire destroys Dewey Bridge near Moab
April 7, 2008
MOAB, Utah ” A 92-year-old wooden suspension bridge across the Colorado River near Moab was destroyed by a fire that began with a boy playing with matches.
“It’s too bad. It was really kind of a historical marker for this area,” Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said. “People are pretty upset because the bridge was still in pretty good shape.”
Dewey Bridge, about 30 miles northeast of Moab, was in the path of a fire that crawled up the riverbank Sunday from a campground about a quarter-mile away, Nyland said.
A 7-year-old boy camping with his parents had gone down to the river and started a brush fire with matches, the sheriff said.
A strong breeze spread the flames over 10 acres, igniting the old bridge, searing the underside of a concrete bridge and blackening more than a half-mile of riverbed. Campers were evacuated but no one was injured.
“It threatened one home at one point, but (firefighters) were able to keep it from that,” said Lynn Jackson, associate field director at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s office in Moab.
Built in 1916, Dewey Bridge had not been used for cars for years. But it was a well-known foot bridge and part of the 140-mile Kokopelli Trail bike route from Moab to Loma, Colo.
It recently got a new paint job by the same community members who helped get the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, Nyland said.
All that remained Monday were charred scraps of wood and steel cables dragging in the current. A boat traveling down the Colorado had to be turned away because the debris made the river impassable.
“It created quite a public-safety hazard,” Jackson said.
County and federal authorities were investigating the fire for possible charges. The family is from Grand Junction, Colo. No names were released.
Loss of the bridge caused a stir in the area, about 250 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
“There aren’t many bridges out in this part of the country like that,” Jackson said.