MONTPELIER, Vt. — Investigators on Tuesday were trying to figure out what sparked a fire that destroyed a historic covered bridge on a rural road.
Saturday’s fire at the Station Covered Bridge on the Salisbury-Cornwall town line in Vermont, a state known for its scenic covered wood-truss bridges, was deemed suspicious because investigators hadn’t determined what caused it. But police don’t believe it was a malicious act, state Detective Lt. Reg Trayah said.
“We have no evidence to believe that an accelerant was used to start the fire,” he said.
The bridge, which was built in the 1860s and was restored in 2008, was cherished in the two small communities.
“It’s a beloved bridge … that in 2008 was completely rehabbed and looked beautiful,” said Paul Vaczy, Salisbury road commissioner and a member of the select board. “And it was in extremely good shape and would have lasted for many, many, many years, so it’s definitely a loss to the town, for certain, and a sentimental loss to the town as well.”
The towns are considering renting a temporary bridge from the state and rebuilding some type of span, Vaczy said.
The president of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges called the charred bridge “a terrible loss.”
“Even if it is rebuilt, you cannot replace the 150 years of history that was lost in an afternoon,” society president William Caswell said.
The 155-foot-long bridge across the Otter Creek was built in 1865 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It’s among 102 covered bridges in Vermont, of which 81 are considered historic, Caswell said.
Vermont is the state with the third most covered bridges, behind Pennsylvania, which has more than 200, and Ohio, with 148.
Police are looking to speak to anyone who has any information about the bridge fire.
“Our focus right now is to try to figure what caused this,” Trayah said. “Was this an accident or was this just somebody not paying attention and you know doing something that … somebody should have known better?”
The bridge was one of two historic structures in Vermont to be destroyed by fire over the weekend. The Old Dairy Barn on the property of Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit organization, burned down after storms on Sunday.
The bridge is where police found a burning car that a missing Connecticut woman had driven the evening she was last seen in January 2015. Denise Hart’s remains were found nearly a year later off the edge of a road in Goshen. Hart had been shot, and the homicide case is still being investigated.