Private bridges are where a private road or driveway crosses a river, stream or other waterway. Many of these private bridges were built decades ago without permits, plan review and oversight. Some have never been inspected by a qualified engineer since their construction, and no documentation exists for how much weight, or “load,” they can handle.
Without information about a private bridge’s condition, fire districts might be reluctant to drive heavy vehicles across a private bridge. If responders do not cross a bridge, they will make every effort to reach the location, including carrying medical equipment or running hoses for extended distances.
This, in turn, adds critical delay to providing fire and medical response and increases the potential for more severe property damage and the possibility of more serious injury.
May 2012 update
On May 29, the Board of County Commissioners approved amendments to Clark County code regarding private bridges. The code changes took effect on June 8.
Clark County’s approach
County officials worked cooperatively with firefighters from local fire districts and representative from private engineering and law firms to come up with a balanced approach.
The code changes created standards for the construction of new private bridges. These standards are expected to reduce construction and repair costs for new bridges.
For existing bridges, the standards require action only if additional homes or structures are built or new lots are created. In these cases, developers or home builders could choose to have the bridge inspected and upgraded or, alternatively, provide fire-resistant construction, such as building homes with fire sprinklers.
Clark County recommends that every private bridge be inspected by a qualified engineer once every five years. However, if property owners and residents living near a private bridge decide not to have their crossing inspected and possibly upgraded, they need to understand this could affect response during a fire or medical emergency.
Clark County and local fire districts hosted a series of three open houses in different parts of the county in late January and early February to meet with residents and answer their questions.
In addition, county officials have met with a variety of groups to get their thoughts and comments, including the Clark County Development and Engineering Advisory Board, the Building Industry Association of Clark County and the Clark County Association of Realtors.
For more information on this issue, contact:
Jean Singer, P.E.
Bridge Program Manager
Clark County Public Works
(360) 397-6118 ext. 4823
Clark County Community Development
(360) 397-2375 ext. 3324