By Benjamin Cohn
Upper Flat Creek – A detailed Weaverville Fire Department incident report was obtained by the Tribune recently, giving greater insight into what lead up to the collapse of a private bridge, off of Upper Flat Creek Road, during a routine response in the early morning hours of Sunday, January 13.
In the narrative portion of the report authored by Dean Greene, he describes the conditions leading to emergency response vehicles getting stuck and, later, the bridge collapse.
“[Jupiter Fire Department’s] Tanker 16 came down off the mountain and advised that he wasn’t comfortable going back. He stated that he would get stuck. [Reems Creek Fire Department’s] Engine 14-3 proceeded up the mountain. Engine 14-3 did get stuck in the mud but was able to get his self [sic] out and make it to [Weaverville Fire Department’s] Engine 8-2.”
The narrative goes on to say that, “[Reynolds Fire Department’s] Engine 9-2 pulled up and I advised him about the switchback curves. The driver advised he was good. Tanker 5-2 then pulled up and was next in line. I stepped up onto the running board and was advising him of the process of going halfway [sic] up and waiting on the last tanker to come out. That is when we heard a loud crash.”
Greene then describes the scene, with one of the fire engines “…sitting on its frame and tailboard was on the bridge deck that was in the creek. The Driver [sic] and passenger got out and advised that they were okay. Asheville Battalion 1 advised Chief 8 that the bridge had failed.”
Fortunately, nobody was injured and water was still able to be transported up the mountain to combat the fire, according to the report. In the process of refilling their water supply, though, a tanker misjudged the amount of clearance he had and overshot the edge of the road, sliding off of it.
This move could have spelled disaster for the team and their mission. Their water supply was now officially cut. Greene writes that “tanker 17 was stuck and out of service. However much water he had on top of the mountain was all he was going to get.”
Greene “advised Chief 8 that there was no means of continuing water supply.”
Another emergency responder, David Privette, who was incident commander on the scene, wrote a narrative that was included in the event’s overall report. In his narrative, Privette detailed some of the weather conditions that led to the January 13 incident.
“There had been heavy rain in the area for a month and there was light freezing rain and sleet while responding. The road surface was extremely soft. The temperature at the time of response was 31 degrees F.”
Further conditions that hindered the team’s response were “unmarked residences, spinning tires, narrow roadway, low hanging vegetation, and switchbacks.” Further information in Privette’s narrative reveals that the homeowner “…requested EMS to check out her husband who was in the house and awoke to it on fire. She said he needed to be checked out and that he was in shock.”
According to the report, he had “minor burns from the fire” but was otherwise okay. As of the publishing of this story, the fire’s cause remains unknown.