The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released its investigation of the Taylor Bridge Fire, describing the origin and cause of the $11 million fire that destroyed 61 homes, hundreds of other structures, and blackened over 23,000 acres. The investigation found that the fire was human caused and was associated with the cutting and welding activity taking place on a bridge at the intersection of State Highway 10 and Taylor Road, southeast of Cle Elem.
In the report, the investigator states, “Based on the fire direction indicators, the information and evidence collected to date, I determine that the fire was human caused and was most likely caused by errant sparks and/or slag from the construction activity that was occurring on the bridge immediately prior to the fire’s start.”
The fire was reported to 911 at 1:19 pm on August 13. Employees of contractors and subcontractors for Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) were working on the bridge and attempted to extinguish the fire. The fire started from point of origin about 30 feet from where one worker was using a power saw to cut rebar on the bride deck and second worker was welding under the bridge.
The report also states that “this bridge deck replacement activity is an industrial operation which may cause a fire to start on or adjacent to forestland. The construction activity was occurring in “shut down zone” 675 and the Industrial Fire Protection Level for the day was level 3 (IFPL3).”
Copies of the report and attachments can be requested by sending an email to: CHERI.JARRETT@dnr.wa.gov
Suppression cost recovery
DNR is responsible (RCW 76.04.495) for seeking recovery for its costs associated with the suppression of wildfires. The total suppression cost of the Taylor Bridge fire is estimated to be $11.1 million dollars, with DNR’s cost estimated to be approximately half that. Suppression costs do not include damage or loss of private property or impact to public land or infrastructure. DNR works with the Attorney General’s office to determine from whom DNR will seek cost recovery. The process starts with a letter demanding full payment for suppression costs and can ultimately lead to litigation.