ATLANTA — Buford Highway near Lenox Road in northeast Atlanta is back open after a fire broke out at an encampment underneath a bridge Sunday morning.
Atlanta Fire Rescue Department said the fire started before 11:00 a.m. and black smoke was billowing around the roadway.
Once crews put the fire out, the Georgia Department of Transportation moved in to inspect the integrity of the bridge.
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News Chopper 2 was flying overhead as workers deemed it safe. Police reopened the roadway around 3:00 pm.
“Behind those fires are humans,” said Tracy Thompson.
Thompson is the founder of The Elizabeth Foundation, Inc.
She has dedicated her career to helping find homes and health services.
“I used to go to the encampments to meet the people, and it took time to establish trust,” said Thompson.
When the camp under Buford Highway caught on fire Sunday, she was one of the first to know.
“Fires are set for many reasons one being for heat, one being to cook, another being to boil water for bathing,” said Thompson.
She told Channel 2′s Courtney Francisco the camp that’s running under Buford Highway near Lenox Road is one of the largest in Atlanta.
She said some have lived there for nearly a decade. For the past four months, she said teams have been working to rapidly rehouse them through a city initiative called Lift 2.0.
“We’ve been working closely with that organization to help get them document-ready and housed because they’re going to be clearing that,” said Thompson. “So, it’s already been in the process, and a couple of weeks ago, they fenced it off. So, they’re about done there.”
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It’s less than a mile from the encampment that caught on fire under Cheshire Bridge Rd. in December.
That road is still closed for repairs.
State inspectors with the Georgia Department of Transportation determined Buford Highway was safe to cross about four hours after Sunday’s fire.
Thompson is relieved everyone survived but said it’s a reminder that not everyone is housed yet.
She said her team desperately needs more volunteers to help move people into new apartments and homes.
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