Two more open houses on private bridges

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Clark County and local fire districts will host two more open houses to provide updated information for homeowners who use privately owned bridges.

Last week there was a meeting in Battle Ground.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, there will be an open house at Yacolt Town Hall, 202 W. Cushman St.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 9, there will be an open house at East County Fire & Rescue, 600 N.E. 267th Ave. in Camas.

The county has an estimated 679 private bridges, and property owners are encouraged to get existing bridges inspected by a qualified bridge engineer to establish the bridge’s load capacity. Costs would be shared among the homeowners.

Officials are concerned that some bridges aren’t sturdy enough to support a fire engine in the event of an emergency, said Carolyn Heniges, bridge program manager for Clark County Public Works.

If fire equipment cannot cross a private bridge, firefighters will still respond -- even if it means running hoses for an extended distance, Heniges said.

The county has also drafted proposed standards for the construction of new private bridges. The standards are expected to make construction and repairs less costly than current federal standards, Heniges said.

For existing bridges, the proposed standards would apply only if additional homes are built or new lots are created, she said. Another option would be to install fire sprinklers in the new homes to avoid paying for bridge upgrades.

Last year, county commissioners were briefed on the problem: Fire districts say they won’t take their biggest vehicles across substandard private bridges, and there are property owners who may be unaware of the problem or those who don’t want to pay to fix it.

For more information, go to Clark County's website.

To submit comments via email, send them to carolyn.heniges@clark.wa.gov.