A vagrant encampment fire that started in a confined space below the Union Pacific Train Trestle Sunday afternoon extended approximately 40 feet and significantly damaged a portion of the rail line on the bridge. Firefighters requested Union Pacific to stop all rail activities in order to make access to bridge. Ventura Police assisted by placing spotters up and down the rail line to warn firefighters if any trains were to about to cross the bridge.
Ventura Police located a subject, Joseph Duran (37 years-old), nearby who had been seen fleeing from the scene of the fire. Upon further investigation, it was learned that Duran is a vagrant who had set up camp in the river bottom. He lit an illegal warming fire that quickly got out of control when the winds picked up.
The fire severely damaged nearly 20 wooden supports and engulfed an area under the trestle. The fire was deeply seated in the creosote lumber and was extinguished within 80 minutes. Union Pacific representatives estimate that structural damage would exceed $10,000– and fiber optic communications lines, housed in the under portion of the bridge, were being evaluated for damage. At the time of this press release it is unknown the extent of damages of the communication network and if train activity could safely resume, engineers are currently assessing the damage.
A makeshift living area in the catwalk under the bridge was consumed by fire. Union Pacific Rail officials had contacted the occupant numerous times over the past few months but had failed attempts to permanently remove the individual who eventually started this fire. Joseph Duran was arrested and booked at the Ventura County Jail for 452(c) PC – recklessly starting a fire.