UPDATED: Cause of BNSF Railway bridge fire in Bemidji determined

The fire was reported shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday, March 1.

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A fire caused "moderate damage" to a BNSF railroad bridge on Monday afternoon in Bemidji. (Bemidji Fire Department photo)

BEMIDJI -- A fire caused "moderate damage" to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway bridge on Monday afternoon.

According to an email from Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood on Wednesday, the cause of the fire was determined to be accidental.

"As most of Bemidji has heard, BNSF crews have been pounding beams into the river bed to support a new railroad bridge," Sherwood said. "Cutting torches are then used to cut the beams and make any necessary modifications. The cutting was confirmed by BNSF employees and witnesses. Sparks from the torches fell down, under the decking causing the fire."

Damages to the bridge are estimated to be around $10,000, Sherwood said.

Firefighters were on the scene for about two hours following the fire's initial report shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday, March 1. The bridge crosses over the Mississippi River between Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji.


The fire was investigated by the Bemidji Fire Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office. The Bemidji Fire Department was assisted at the scene by the Bemidji Police Department, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office and BNSF Railway.

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