Channel 2 takes a look back at the fiery I-85 bridge collapse in 2017

ATLANTA — This year Channel 2 Action News is celebrating WSB-TV’s 75th anniversary. Throughout the decades there have been some stories we and you will never forget.

One of those happened almost exactly 6 years ago. Channel 2’s Justin Gray takes a look back at a commute unlike any other.

The day I-85 caught fire. It started with so much smoke and a breaking news alert during the dinner hour.

It wasn’t a car fire neither was it a fire on I-85, but I-85 on fire. It happened on March 30, 2017.

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A portion of the interstate had fallen in because of these flames. That was the moment everyone in Atlanta realized this was more than just a traffic headache for one evening commute.

When the flames were out and the smoke cleared, a 100-foot section of I-85 over Piedmont road was gone.

And two things began: a weeks-long commute nightmare unlike any other and a race to rebuild in record time.

“My normal 10-minute commute became a 40-minute commute,” driver Erin Mcfadden said.

Contractors began clearing the debris as soon as the site was safe and worked round-the-clock shifts to rebuild.


A time-lapse video showed the progress. A section of I-85 was back open again just 44 days after the fire.

For Channel 2 Action News, this was an event where advances in our news technology played a role in telling the story. Our new fleet of drones, News Drone 2 allowed us to capture video we wouldn’t have been able to see from the ground or from News Chopper2.

In time, we learned more about what caused the fire.

Police charged a homeless man, Basil Eleby with setting fire to a chair that ignited a huge surplus of highly flammable coils that had been stored under the highway for years.

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The National Transportation Safety Board put the blame for the fire after its investigation on the Georgia Department of Transportation for storing those combustible materials under the highway.

GDOT conducted a statewide review of operations to make sure it’s protecting against a fire like this in the future.


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