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By Ed Barna

Brandon-- After a recent unsuccessful attempt to burn Bennington's Henry Covered Bridge, it seemed reasonable to think that the newly rebuilt Sanderson Covered Bridge in Brandon might be a similar target.
       "Arson attempt on new Brandon bridge," said an Aug. 2 headline in the Addison Eagle. Workers for the Blow & Cote construction company had found a partially burned sock, wrapped in twine, on July 28--which the article characterized as "a charred homemade fuse."
       Debbie Bezio (buh-ZYE-oh), the president and engineer of Lone Wolf Drilling and Blasting in Benson, confirmed that the workers on the site had found the sock and thought it looked like fuse--though the Brandon police were not notified until Bezio did so.
       Bezio said she had been at the site because blasting was needed to remove foundations for the two steel girders that supported a temporary roadway across the river while the covered bridge was closed.
       According to Brandon Chief of Police Craig Hanson, the matter was turned over to the State Police. But when State Police fire investigator Dennis Holman reviewed the evidence and the bridge area, he concluded that the fuse wasn't connected to anything but rumors.
       "It's a real stretch to call it an attempted arson," Holman said. He said it was more probable that the sock had fallen off some kind of vehicle, perhaps a farm wagon being taken along the farm road north of the bridge--the area where it was found.
       Hay had been put on the ground to help reseed the work area, Holman said. None of that hay had been ignited where the sock landed, he said.
       A close inspection of the bridge and the two portal areas found no evidence of any sort of arson, Holman said. Had someone made an attempt, it probably would have been futile, he said, because the bridge has been treated with a fire retardant.
       That precaution, which had also been taken with the old Sanderson Covered Bridge during the 14 years it was closed, was taken after the town lost Dean's Covered Bridge (Union Street) due to arson in 1986. A concrete bridge was chosen for that crossing, in a town meeting vote.
       Of more concern to Holman was the way the western approach to the bridge (from Sudbury going into Brandon) leaves so little time to see an oncoming vehicle. At the most recent Select Board meeting, board member Richard Baker expressed the same concern.
       The board agreed that there ought to be stronger signs along the approach, but could only advise Town Manager Michael Balch to talk with the state about it because such signs are a state responsibility. Balch said he would, because if there is an accident "we want it to be the state"s liability, not the town's."
       The final bills have not come in for the Sanderson reconstruction, but Balch said the total will be about $1.2-1.4 million, of which $60-65,000 will be the local share. Federal covered bridge money obtained by Sen. James Jeffords will pay $450,000 of the cost.

[This article written for the Valley Voice by Ed Barna, member of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society and author of Covered Bridges of Vermont, Countyman Press - Ed.]

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This file posted August 7, 2003