Fiddlin’ While the Big Four Burns

Big Four Fire

We missed the big story yesterday — at the time we were either posting a Wendell Berry essay or we were cleaning up the house to have friends over for burgers — about the Big Four bridge catching fire in the afternoon (above photo from the Courier-Journal). What’s notable about the fire on the soon-to-be pedestrian bridge and landmark is that the blaze was battled from the Ohio River itself, due to its remote nature:

Flames shot from the Big Four Bridge yesterday as firefighters grappled with how to extinguish a blaze 70 to 80 feet above the Ohio River and a quarter-mile from the Louisville shore.

Because the wood crossties of the bridge have been rickety for years, Louisville Fire & Rescue Chief Greg Frederick decided not to put firefighters on the bridge.

So firefighters attacked the fire from the water, using a fire boat from the Harrods Creek Fire Department. The craft can create a stream of water that can reach the bridge timbers, something Louisville’s fire boat cannot match.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the bridge has caught fire. Back in the misty recesses of my brain I remembered there being some sort of fire on the bridge, back when back-then heavy rock radio station LRS 102 had both a sign and annual Christmas decorations on the bridge (see a photo from those days by D. Barlow here). Sure enough, the C-J article mentions that, as well as some more history of the bridge:

In 1987, a short in the wiring of Christmas lights started a blaze. Firefighters had to use more than 2,000 feet of hose and climb onto the bridge to extinguish the fire, [Chief] Frederick said…

The Big Four was built in 1895 and abandoned in 1969, after which the approaches in Louisville and Jeffersonville were dismantled.

Plans have been in the works to develop the bridge into a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path that connects Louisville to Southern Indiana.

On the Kentucky side, site work around the bridge is nearing completion and $4.4 million worth of steel for a spiral ramp leading to the bridge is soon to be ordered.


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