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This article first appeared in the January 23, 2019 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Low mourns loss of historic landmark

By Hunter Cresswell

The community of Low didn't just lose its last standing covered bridge to a massive blaze over the weekend - it lost a historic landmark.

Police are investigating a fire that broke out on the evening of Jan. 19 and destroyed the 96-year-old covered bridge known as Kelly Bridge on Pike Lake Road as a possible arson.

Kelly Bridge
The scorched remains of Kelly Bridge just two days after the fire. Hunter Cresswell photo.

"A piece of Low's history, gone up in smoke...and for what? So someone can get a thrill of setting it on fire? That bridge was a symbol for our little town. People having had their wedding photos taken there because it was the perfect backdrop for... country themed weddings. To all us guys, who, when we first got our driver's licences, would head on down there," Rick Charron told this reporter over Facebook.

Charron, an ex-firefighter who lives about a half kilometre from the bridge, posted a photo of the burning structure before the fire crews even arrived on the scene to battle the blaze. "...Me and a neighbour, we had parked on top [of] the hill and looked on in disbelief," he said.

Ottawa resident Walter Sullivan was born a mile from the bridge at his family home which is now Peabody Farm. He recalls walking to and from school in Fieldville as a child, and crossed the bridge on his way. "We crossed it morning and night," Sullivan said. "It'll sure be missed."

Built in 1922 and measuring 88 feet long, Kelly Bridge was the only direct connection between the towns of Venosta and Fieldville. Residents and farmers in the area must now take a 20-minute detour along Hwy 105 to get back and forth.

Kelly Bridge
The covered bridge, built in 1922, was the only direct connection between the towns of Venosta and Fieldville. Photo courtesy Don Kealey.

Venosta resident Janet Brownrigg said she heard about the fire through the phone tree and she and her husband, Walter, decided to brew some hot coffee and take it to the firefighters who had been battling the inferno for about two hours in near -40C weather. "The fire was not very far from our house and I know near everyone in the fire department," Brownrigg said, adding, "they do a great job." She described the destruction as a "big loss... It was a beautiful spot."

A Low firefighter who responded to the fire but spoke to The Low Down on condition of anonymity thanked the Brownriggs for their kind gesture.

"It made a huge difference for us," the firefighter said. "It makes us feel very appreciated."

On Jan. 21, Mayor Carole Robert said over the phone that she was shocked and saddened by the news of the fire. "Now council and myself have to meet and discuss what we'll plan for the future," she said.

"This link has to be rebuilt, there's no doubt about about that," said Ward 6 Low councillor Ghyslain Robert. He called the bridge a "historic piece" that will be greatly missed because Lowites would commonly take visitors to see it. "It was part of all our lives."