EDMONTON — A massive bridge fire in Mayerthorpe that prompted officials to evacuate a school and a mobile park, is being treated as an arson investigation, RCMP said Tuesday evening.
About 24 firefighters were called in to battle the blaze engulfing the wooden trestle bridge on the northwest edge of the town, which broke out at around 1:30 p.m. Just before 4:30 p.m., fire crews had the blaze contained. The trestle collapsed in the fire.
Canadian National Railway personnel were also called to the scene. The rail line, which stretches from Edmonton to Smoke Lake (near Fox Creek), runs through the town of Whitecourt.
Without the trestle bridge, rail service to the community will be put on hold. From forestry to aggregate to oil and gas, at least 12 businesses will be affected. Whitecourt’s mayor said it may prove to be challenging, but those companies will have to rely on the trucking industry for the time being.
“I’m quiet confident CN is going to take a look at providing solutions for short term and for long term for our community — there is definitely enough businesses,” Whitecourt Mayor Maryann Chichak told Global News. “One train in and one train out, but it’s full loads from different sectors of industry.
“That is a service that I can’t see that CN would ever put in jeopardy for our community.”
Residents of a mobile home park in Mayerthorpe returned home several hours after being forced out by the blaze Tuesday afternoon.
More than 260 students at the Mayerthorpe high school and residents of 38 mobile homes at the Kreek’s Krossing trailer park were sent to the town’s community centre due to the fire. Students from the elementary school in town were also sent home early.
There is no word on the cause of the fire, but the RCMP are investigating the possibility of arson.
Town of Mayerthorpe was notified of the blaze at around 1:30 p.m., and said no buildings were at risk.
Watch below: Massive trestle fire in Mayerthorpe Tuesday afternoon
People were asked to stay away from the area Tuesday evening as crews continued their work.
Anyone with respiratory issues was asked to remain inside and close their doors and windows.
An evacuation centre was temporarily set up at the Diamond Centre.
A fire ban that had been in place for Mayerthorpe was lifted Monday morning. Mayerthorpe is located about 135 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
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