Officials: Delayed emergency response for those with unsafe bridges

KITSAP COUNTY, Wash. - Hundreds of residents in Kitsap County are at risk of a delayed response from firefighters because bridges on their property might collapse under the weight of a fire truck.

"The real problem comes when you start looking under the bridge," Lieutenant Matt Porter says.

There are 91 bridges and 44 culverts on private property that Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue crews will not cross right now.

"Here it looks nice and sturdy, but if you look underneath it's really just an old flatbed semi truck that's been laid down here with wood decking put over it," Porter says of one bridge he refuses to take his 30,000 pound fire engine across.

Earlier this year an engine in Polk County, Oregon took an 8-foot plunge when a wooden bridge collapsed.

Central Kitsap's Fire Chief says he can't afford to have a rig out of commission, and he won't put his people in unavoidable danger.

That's why the fire department is working with residents to come up with a policy for making bridges that are safe, or unsafe to cross. It would require, however, the private property owners to pay an estimated $1,000 to $2,000 for a bridge inspection.

Robin Magruder understands why firefighters won't cross the bridge near her home, but she wonders whether homeowners can afford to fix the problem.

"No, I don't think a lot of people have a thousand dollars these days to throw to inspect a bridge," Magruder says.

The fire department says it will respond to all emergencies, it just might require running hoses a long distance, or a paramedic crew rolling a gurney across.

The department cannot afford to pay for the inspections, but is trying to direct residents to agencies that may help defray the costs.