NEAR RUCH, Ore. – Just after 10:30p.m. Tuesday night, Applegate Fire District 9 responded to a fire just off Highway 238. The first engine on scene was going over the only bridge over the Applegate River leading to the home when the front passenger side tire fell through the bridge.
The firefighters immediately stopped and were unable to move the engine. Other units responding to the scene were then unable to reach the home because of the blocked bridge.
Applegate Fire District Chief Brett Fillis said there was only one person home at the time of the fire. That man was able to escape unharmed, thanks in part to smoke detectors. The home is a total loss.
“It’s kind of a tragic situation when you’re not able to continue on to the fire like that, but when you have to deal with bridges, sometimes that’s the case,” said Chief Fillis.
Chief Fillis said once the firefighters realized the engine was stuck, the 1,100 gallons of water it was carrying were released to make the unit about 8,000 pounds lighter. Two tow trucks were called in to help free the truck.
“Combination between that and our own airbags, we were able to lift the truck up, slide it back over onto the bridge, then hold it with the wreckers, and then essentially drove it off the bridge,” said Chief Fillis.
Chief Fillis said the section of the bridge the engine fell through was rotten.
“I think anytime you have wood on a bridge, even if the substructure is steel, you know, that wood only lasts so long, and in this case, those boards broke free,” said Chief Fillis.
Chief Fillis said the district last did an inventory in 2007 and found they had a total of 52 bridges. The chief said at the time of the inventory the bridge was able to carry the weight of fire units.
“They get certified at a particular point in time and particularly those made with portions of them that have wood, that wood doesn’t last forever and it has to be maintained in order to continue to carry that load,” said Chief Fillis.