Arrest Made in Madison County Bridge Fire

Apr 18, 2017

The Madison County Sheriffs' Office has arrested a person in the burning of one of the area’s iconic covered bridges. Seventeen-year-old Alexander Hoff of West Des Moines is accused of purposely setting the Cedar Bridge on fire early Saturday. He’s been charged with arson in the first degree—a class B felony.

The Cedar Bridge is one of several covered bridges near Winterset seen in the 1995 movie, "The Bridges of Madison County."

This is the second time this particular bridge has been the target of arson, but Sheriff Jason Barnes says the damage from the most recent fire wasn’t as extensive.

“The bridge wasn’t a total loss,” Barnes says.  “It didn’t collapse into the river like the last bridge did. That proved huge in the investigation. It really did. That gave us the evidence that we didn’t have the first time, that we had the second time.”

Barnes says there is video evidence of Hoff to corroborate the felony charge, but he wouldn’t say what that footage entailed because the investigation is still open.

“There is an ongoing investigation,” he says. “And additional charges against additional people are pending, depending on the investigation’s findings.”

Barnes says he doesn’t believe Saturday’s fire is related to the 2002 arson fire that destroyed the previous Cedar Bridge. Hoff would have been a toddler at the time.

The Madison County Historic Preservation Commission says rebuilding the covered bridge in 2003 cost $576,000.  The commission is accepting donations from people who want to contribute to the rebuilding fund.  Checks can be mailed or brought to the Farmers and Merchants State Bank, the American State Bank, or the Union State Bank, all in Winterset.