Massive fire started from thousands of illegally dumped tires, investigators say

The city of Atlanta owns the old Atlanta prison farm where the fire started, but the site is not secure with a fence, gate or locks.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — After hours and hours and massive amounts of water, a massive tire fire is finally out in DeKalb County.

The fire came after Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach  was told the city already came and cleared out up to 8,000 tires in the last few months. Currently, the property is vacant.

The fire started at the old Atlanta Prison Farm located in the 1500 block of Key Road off Moreland Avenue in DeKalb County, sending a thick, black column of smoke that could be seen and smelled for miles on Sunday.

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DeKalb firefighters were called to the site around 6 p.m. Sunday but it took all night and into Monday morning to finally put the fire out.

Because the fire burned so hot all night, firefighters brought in special foam to combat the flames. Then, the rain started and actually hampered their efforts.

“We were looking for that extinguishment back at four o’clock this morning, but then the rain came and washed the blanket away and we were back to square one,” Capt. Eric Jackson said. “We had to continue to put water on the fire and have made significant progress.”

The old tires actually filled the old boiler building, stacked to the top of the more than 2-story structure that’s now partially collapsed.


Neighbor and activist Scott Petersen went to the prison farm on Sunday to see the damage and said the smell of the fire burned his lungs.

"The fire was so intense, along with the effort to put it out, collapsed the side wall," Petersen said. "Crumbled damage and cracks to the back wall as well, it may come down. And look inside here, these steel I-beams are twisted up now like pieces of licorice."

This isn’t the first fire at the old Atlanta prison farm, but it was probably the biggest and most dangerous because of the thick, black and toxic smoke.

<p>What caused the large plume of smoke Sunday? Tires!</p>

What caused the large plume of smoke Sunday? Tires!

Petersen and others have spent years trying to push the city of Atlanta, which owns the property, to do something to stop the illegal dumping. They think the city should turn the farm into useable green space.

The only thing blocking anyone now from getting back there is piled-up dirt and asphalt blocking the road, but trucks can just drive around it. It likely took many loads or large dump trucks to haul the amount of tires that were in the building.