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December 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Construction work that started Taylor Bridge fire was prohibited at the time

John Shea leans into a gate, exhausted, as the wildfire consumes the grounds around a friend’s ranch in August, near Cle Elum. (Photo by Jordan Stead / The Seattle Times)

UPDATE: 11:20 a.m. | Construction workers who likely caused the Taylor Bridge Fire in August were working with a power saw and welding equipment at a time when a state regulation prohibited such activity due to fire risk, according to a state Department of Natural Resources report released Monday.

The wildfire destroyed 61 homes and hundreds of other structures and burned more 23,000 acres.

The investigation found the fire was caused by humans, most likely by a worker using a power saw to cut rebar and a second worker welding under the bridge, according to a Washington Department of Natural Resource investigation report released Monday

The fire began on a hot summer day. Due to the fire risk, a Level 3 fire precaution took affect at 1 p.m. that day, according to the report. Under that rule, welding and the use of power saws were both prohibited at the site.

Yet  the welding and power saw activity did continue after 1 p.m., according to Bryan Flint,  director of communications for the state Department of Natural Resources.  Flint said that activity was reported by witnesses at the construction site.

The fire was reported at 1:19 p.m. that day, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The fire appeared to have started somewhere between 1 p.m. and the time the report came in, according to Flint.

Workers tried to extinguish the fire, but it was wind driven and got ahead of them, according to Flint.

The bridge work was a state Department of Transportation project. At  the time the fire began, employees for agency contractors and subcontractors were working on the bridge.

The State Department of Natural Resources is responsible for seeking the recovery of the estimated $11.1 million costs associated with putting out the fire.  DNR is working with the state Attorney General’s office to determine which the agency will try to recover the funds. That process begins with a letter of demand seeking payment, and is likely to trigger litigation.

The  $11.1 million costs do not include damage to or loss of private property or the impacts to public lands or facilities.

The construction company was warned it might be liable for the costs.

0 Comments | More in Environment, General news | Topics: Taylor Bridge Wildfire

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