A fire toppled a railroad bridge like it was made of dominoes outside the small town of San Saba, Texas. Members of the Lometa, Texas, volunteer fire department arrived on the scene, but they could only contain the fire and watch as trestle after trestle folded, leaving the train rails suspended in air momentarily like Wile E. Coyote.
Jamie Smart, who shot the video, spends his days as principal of the local high school, but he volunteers his time at the Lometa Volunteer Fire Department. The small group uses donations to maintain vehicles and hoses when the county budget falls short. Responding to a call from a local resident, he found the air too hazy to see much when he got there. But from up close, Smart knew the 900-foot trestle bridge, built in 1910 as a spur of the Sante Fe Railroad, was in flames. "It was quite an engineering marvel, that it stood up that long," Smart said.
Firefighters had only the water they brought in trucks—enough to fight a brush fire, but not enough to take on the giant structure made of aged, dried wood that burned like kindling. The crew spread out on the valley floor and tried to save what they could: the farmland under the bridge.
"It was the most dramatic fire I've seen, in terms of spectacle," Smart says. Unlike many of the fires he's seen in his seven years of work, this one involved no human tragedy, no family that had just lost their home or worse.
He had just pulled out his phone to shoot a minute of video to show his kids when the bridge crumpled. "I had no idea it would go like that," he said. The fire crew yelped as it came crashing down. "It was amazement. Everyone was taken back. It was so hot you couldn't get close to it," he said. "All you could do was watch."
Smart said he regrets the bridge could cost as much as $10 million to replace and farmers who used the line to move grain will have to find a new outlet for their goods.
"I'm thankful we didn't lose any farmland or ranch land," Smart said.
- Society & Culture
- volunteer fire department
- Jamie Smart