Over the past weekend on Saturday evening April 30th someone set a fire under the bridge next to Schwinghammer Lake on the Lake Wobegon Trail. This was a significant event and caused damage to the under structure of the bridge. Fortunately it has been determined the bridge is safe to use so the trail is open for normal use after being closed over the weekend between Albany and Avon.
The fire was intentionally set and a $5,000 reward is being offered by the MN State Fire Marshal’s office for information leading to the identification and prosecution of the individual(s) responsibe for the fire.
We’re asking the public’s help in dentifying the individuals responsible for the fire. If have any information that could help solve this arson fire please contact the Arson Hot-Line or the Stearns County Sheriff’s office.
The fire was likely set around 3-5pm on Saturday April 30th under the bride at Schwinghammer Lake. If you noticed any suspicious activity near the bridge or know of anyone who was in the area and may have information please report it.
Tipsters may remain anonymous and should report tips to the Arson Hot-Line at 1-800-723-2020.
People with possible information may also call the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 320-251-4240 or Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 320-255-1301.
Fortunately Bobby Youngdahl, an active trail user and member of the Central MN Bike Club, was biking across the bridge and notice a whiff of smoke coming from below the bridge. At first he thought it was just someone smoking under the bride but then decided to go back and double check the site and called 911 to report the fire. By the time he completed his call about 5:15pm+/- the fire had grown significantly with 2-4 foot flames bellowing out from under the bridge. The first fire responders were on site by about 5:30pm+/- Thank you to Bobby for reporting the fire as quickly as he did!
Three fire departments, from Albany, Avon and Freeport, were on the scene battling the fire for over 4 hours before they were able to bring it under control. The 216 feet of bridge decking is constructed on steel I-beams along with large wood beams treated with creosote which provided fuel for the fire. The Albany fire department had to return to the scene on Sunday.
This could have been a much more serious fire if it hadn’t be reported so quickly. The individuals responsible need to be apprehended and made to accept responsibility for their actions. Not only was there serious damge done to the bridge but fire fighters could have been seriously injured fighting the fire.
Please help us solve this senseless crime!
Happy Trails! Cliff
Lake Wobegon Trails Association
33504 Shorewood Dr
Avon MN 56310