Ridgefield company part of wildfire investigation

Conway Construction was working near where blaze began Monday

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

Published:

Updated: August 16, 2012, 6:41 PM

 

A wildfire that has scorched more than 28,000 acres in Central Washington started at a construction site where a Ridgefield company was working, officials said.

The Washington Department of Transportation hired Conway Construction in April to replace the deck of the Taylor Bridge on Highway 10 near Cle Elum. A fire sparked at the construction site Monday afternoon while crews were working to place rebar and steel girders on the site, said Todd Trepanier, WSDOT assistant regional administrator for construction, maintenance and operations.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said.

About 840 firefighters were called out to help contain the wind-driven blaze near Ellensburg. As of Thursday morning, it was 25 percent contained.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is investigating the fire, said Bryan Flint, communications director for the agency. The fire’s origin is related to the construction activity but no further information will be released until the investigation is complete, Flint said.

Jesse Conway, attorney for Conway Construction, released the following statement on the company’s behalf:

“There were numerous public and private entities in the proximity of this tragedy. Conway Construction Company is cooperating with multiple ongoing investigations. A cause has yet to be determined. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered losses, those who remain in harm’s way and those who are battling the blaze.”

Conway was in the news last year when it got into a dispute with Multnomah County, Ore., last August over environmental and safety concerns while repairing the Morrison Bridge. The county stopped work crews during the project two times in less than two weeks, saying molten metal burned holes through plastic traps the company was using to catch debris from falling into the Willamette River. Conway set up a new containment system to solve the problem.

Paul Suarez: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; paul.suarez@columbian.com.