Controlled burn probed after fatal crash

Updated:

Officials say more than two dozen vehicles collided in a fiery pileup Wednesday morning on Interstate 16, south of Macon, where at least three people were killed and 12 others were hurt.

Wendy Corona - Four people were killed on an interstate shrouded by fog, but a witness said smoke was also in the mix.

The chain-reaction pile-up happened Wednesday morning on Interstate 16 near Macon.

“It was definitely smoke.  Whether fog had anything to do with it, I don’t know, but it was definitely smoke,” Scot Nair said.
 
Channel 2 Action News obtained a burn permit that shows a prescribed burn near the interstate for Tuesday with an end time of 6 p.m. Wendy Burnett, of the Georgia Forestry Commission, said despite safety precautions by the landowner, the burn escaped control and caused a wildfire.

“It looks as if a burn ember may have gotten caught by the wind and blown over the fire break and caused the wildfire that burned about two acres,” said Burnett. 
The prescribed burn was complete in the early afternoon Tuesday, and the wildfire was reported at 5 p.m.  Burnett said it was contained by 6 p.m. 

Now, the Forestry Commission is investigating whether the landowner actually stuck to just burning 75 acres, as the permit allowed.
 
Drivers described whiteout conditions on I-16 Wednesday morning when the crash happened around 8 a.m. 

“For the first several minutes, yes, you could see maybe a foot in front of you.  It was really that dense,” said Nair.  “It was really eerie feeling that you didn’t really know where you were in this as cars were coming toward you.”
 
Though fog was in the forecast, Burnett said, “Our staff determined the conditions were safe for a prescribed burn as it was described in the permit request.”

Nair was uncomfortable with the news. 

“Obviously, something has to be done about these supposedly controlled burns and the licensing for them along interstates like that. Somebody needs to be held accountable, obviously, for the deaths of the people,” said Nair.



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