Two bridges were destroyed by fire Wednesday in the Rural Municipality of Hanover.

Hanover Fire Chief Paul Wiebe says it ended up being a very busy afternoon and evening for his firefighters. He says they received their first call at 5:09 pm and responded to a couple of hydro poles and small shed that caught fire north of Provincial Road 311, north of New Bothwell. 

Wiebe explains there was some crop residue burning on some fields in that area and the fire spread to the hydro poles and shed.

"It was a great day for burning, I don't blame them for burning on that day," says Wiebe.

Hanover crews extinguished the blaze and returned back to the fire hall. 

Then, at 6:20 pm, Hanover firefighters were re-dispatched to that same area. Wiebe says Manitoba Hydro crews were working in the area and noticed that the same field fire was now approaching a bridge along Road 26E, just north of PR 311. 

"When crews arrived, the bridge had caught fire," says Wiebe. 

While on scene, Wiebe says their crews noticed smoke and fire coming from the bridge on PR 311. He notes they redeployed some of their resources and called in additional help to deal with the second bridge fire.

"That second fire on the 311 bridge over the Manning Canal happened to be the most significant fire of the evening," he adds.

BridgePhoto credit: Paul Wiebe

According to Wiebe, it took until about 7:30 pm before crews had the second bridge fire under control. He notes they used eight tankers, including three from Tache and one from Steinbach. 

"We required a lot of water on these bridges," he explains. "Treated timbers coated with all the creosote on there, they keep burning for a while. Very difficult to extinguish."

Wiebe notes most of their team was released from the scene at 1 am, though they kept a small crew there to monitor for flareups and hotspots. 

Wiebe says the fire that burned the bridge along Road 26E was not a result of a reignition. He says what they extinguished would not have reignited. Wiebe notes when crews left the original hydro poles and shed fire, there was no reason to believe that the blaze would spread to the bridge along Road 26E. Further to that, he says farmers are free to burn their fields as there was no fire ban in place in the municipality. 

"So, field burning is quite common and that's what was going on," he explains. "After the hydro poles and that small shed, we had no reason to believe that the bridges were in any danger at that point. However, that obviously changed."

As for what caused the bridge along PR 311 to catch fire, Wiebe says the Office of the Fire Commissioner is investigating. He adds it is also much too early to comment on whether any charges will be laid on the farmer who was burning Wednesday. But what he can confirm is that both the bridge along PR 311 and Road 26E are a total loss. 

Meanwhile, Wiebe says while the rain Wednesday night helped in their firefighting efforts, the strong winds certainly did not. At one point, when the winds changed, they had to redeploy some of their crews to save a barn and hay shed that were in danger of catching fire. 

Wiebe notes while it was a long evening for their crews, there were no injuries.

As a result of the fire, PR 311 remains closed to traffic between PR 206 and PR 216.