Fire that wrecked key northern MN rail bridge ruled accidental

Cars on fire on a Canadian National Railway train.
The bridge, owned by Canadian National, typically carried more than 20 freight trains daily over the Rat Root River.
Laurel Beager | International Falls Journal

The fire that burned an important rail bridge in Koochiching County has been ruled an accident.

The bridge, owned by Canadian National, typically carried more than 20 freight trains daily over the Rat Root River. Early Wednesday morning, the conductor of a southbound train noticed the structure was on fire.

Crews from International Falls, Minn., responded to the blaze, but the bridge burned to the water line, halting rail traffic between Canada and Chicago.

Minnesota fire marshals investigating the blaze found no evidence of foul play and believe it was started by a mechanical failure, Koochiching County Sheriff Perryn Hedlund said Thursday.

"The big burning question was, was it foul play? I think we've answered that as best as we can at this point," Hedlund said, adding that he didn't want to speculate on what exactly might have gone wrong.

Canadian National engineers along with local contractors are working on a temporary replacement bridge and plan to have trains running again in the next week.

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