BETHEL - When June Harris Koch heard that the historic 12 Mile Bridge, located near her property in Bethel, had burned, she cried. The bridge was definitely part of her heritage and history, since her family has owned the land near the bridge since 1879.

BETHEL - When June Harris Koch heard that the historic 12 Mile Bridge, located near her property in Bethel, had burned, she cried. The bridge was definitely part of her heritage and history, since her family has owned the land near the bridge since 1879.

The 12 Mile Bridge in south Runnels County, is nothing but a shell of charred iron following the fire that burned the wood deck of the historic bridge on Sunday, June 18.

The bridge, built in the 1930s, spanned over the Colorado River, at one of its deepest points in Runnels County and the locals say it was a place where they gathered, carved their names in the posts and even jumped off of during the summer months. It was a place that has been especially popular with young folks over the years and many of the local residents have lamented that something of their history died when the bridge burned.

"It's so sad," she said. "This is where we used to come when I was a teenager. We swam in the swimming hole the river - and my sister and I carved our names on the bridge like so many other kids did.“

The bridge closed to traffic more than 25 years ago, but Koch still enjoyed taking walks across it from time to time.

"It brings back memories," she said.

It may be a remote location in the county, but generations of families, friends, young and old gathered there. There were many baptisms held beneath bridge in the Colorado River. It was a site where memories were made.

Last week, an investigator from the Texas Fire Marshal's office went to the bridge site, located 12 miles south off of Highway 83 on County Road 115, parallel to the concrete bridge. Officials suspected early on that the fire may have been intentionally set, and that's why the state fire marshal was called in.

Runnels County Sheriff Carl Squyres said the investigator took soil samples around the area and even some of the charred wood from the deck to examine closely at the lab in Austin.

"It will be a while before we get an idea of what happened," Squyres said.

Lane Pinkney of Texas Parks and Wildlife discovered the fire on Sunday. The Ballinger Volunteer Fire Department was called in and they battled the blaze with six trucks, dousing the fire with 7,100 gallons of water.

The fire sparked back up on Monday, but only briefly, assistant Fire Chief Brent Allen said.

Now, the burned steel skeleton of the bridge spans the Colorado River and is a hazard.

The bridge was officially turned over to the county in 1991, after the Texas Department of Transportation closed it to traffic.

Since the bridge had not been used for traffic in more than 20 years, it is not under the jurisdiction of TxDOT, said Public Information Officer Karen Threlkeld.

So it will be up to Runnels County to determine when and how to demolish what is left of the structure.

Runnels County Judge Barry Hilliard said Monday that the county will be contacting the Texas Historical Commission to determine what if any historical significance the bridge has.

It will be the county’s responsibility to either preserve or demolish the structure, Hilliard said.

Koch’s son, who lives near the bridge, said the day of the fire, he smelled smoke, but never saw any fire in the direction of the bridge.

“Whoever did this needs to go to jail for a long, long time,” Holmes said.