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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Two teens face charges in connection with Chipman Palouse Trail bridge fire

Wooden bridge and brush on trail between Pullman and Moscow burned last weekend causing a partial closure

Whitman County Fire Department responded to a call regarding an intentional fire on the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail connecting Pullman and Moscow around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, closing a section of the trail near Alpine Animal Hospital

A wooden trestle bridge located on the trail near Alpine Animal Hospital in Pullman was completely destroyed in the fire, said Bill Tensfeld, Whitman County Parks Director. Tensfeld said the bridge is irreparably damaged and will need to be totally replaced.

Lester Erwin, District 12 Fire Chief, said a woman was passing by the trail on Saturday when she noticed two teen boys who she thought were suspicious. She turned around and went back, by which point the bridge was already on fire, so she called the fire department.

Whitman County Fire Department arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire within a couple of hours, Erwin said. Members of the fire department, as well as the woman who called, witnessed the two boys fleeing the scene at the time of the fire, Erwin said.

The boys, aged 13 and 14, were later identified by police as Moscow residents and were also suspects in a theft at a Pullman grocery store, as well as a stolen bicycle at an apartment complex the same day, according to KXLY. They face charges of arson and theft in Whitman County.

The bridge is unable to sustain vehicle traffic and will require trail riders and pedestrians to get on Washington State Route 270 to travel between Pullman and Moscow. Tensfeld said a structural engineer will come to determine if the center of the bridge can sustain bicycle traffic on Wednesday.

“We’re doing as much as we can, as fast as we can,” Tensfeld said.

The county plans to build a new 60-foot clear span steel bridge in place of the wooden one, which will cost approximately $250,000–$300,000, Tensfeld said. They will have more details on start and completion dates after meeting with the structural engineer, Aug. 30.

The Whitman County Parks and Recreation Department is working closely with the Washington State Department of Transportation on detouring the trail traffic onto the Eastbound State Route 270’s shoulder until a new bridge can be built, Tensfeld said.

If the Department of Transportation does not give the county permission to establish the detour, a temporary structure will have to be placed on the trail until the new bridge is finished, Tensfeld said.

“We’re looking at all options, and we want to get the trail riders and trail-runners and everybody back on there as quick as we can,” Tensfeld said. “We want to keep them off of 270 and keep everybody safe.”

Erwin said he warns against using open flames outside for the next few weeks due to dryness in the area. Whitman County is still in fire season, and it is ill-advised to use open flames in the area until the season is over, Erwin said.

“We got a little bit of rain, but it’s very, very dry out there, so people still need to be respectful of the dryness right now,” Erwin said. “Be very careful with fires and cigarettes and things like that, and hopefully we’ll be able to get through the rest of this fire season without anything else burning up.”

Tensfeld said he hopes that the trail will be open by Labor Day weekend for trail-riders and trail-runners on a temporary basis until the new bridge is implemented.

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MUSFIRAH KHAN, Evergreen reporter
Musfirah Khan is a junior from Seattle, Washington studying multimedia journalism. She started working for the Evergreen in spring 2023.

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  • Lou Ann LomaxAug 31, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    Idiot kids. No consideration for other people.