Part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive bridge that was closed after a fire near downtown Atlanta Tuesday reopened shortly after 4:30 p.m . Wednesday, just in time for the afternoon rush hour.
The bridge had been closed since around rush hour Tuesday, when a fire underneath the bridge destroyed a homeless encampment.
City engineers spent much of Wednesday inspecting the bridge.
“There are so many makeshift homes and trash that’s been under here, we had a pretty significant fire,” Atlanta Fire and Rescue spokesman Kevin Roberts told Channel 2 Action News.
The bridge had been exposed to extreme heat, and engineers conducted a thorough inspection to determine if there was any structural damage, according to public works Commissioner Richard Mendoza.
Atlanta fire Capt. Marian McDaniel told the AJC that while there were no immediate reports of anyone missing, cadaver dogs were brought in as a precaution to search the area around the bridge.
Smoke from the fire, which occurred just before Tuesday afternoon rush hour, could be seen from other parts of the downtown area. Channel 2 reported Wednesday that fire officials suspect arson as the cause of the fire and have identified a “person of interest.”
The blaze was only the beginning of the problem, as concrete began falling from a section of the bridge that had been stressed by being heated by intense flames, and then doused in cooling water.
“It’s very dangerous,” Roberts said. “When the concrete falls, there’s no warning, and there are large sections that weigh 50 pounds and up.”
“If you look up under the bridge, the main beams have cross members and some of the cross members, there was enough heat that it caused those to warp, so that caused some concern,” assistant fire chief Steven Woodworth said Wednesday.
Staff writers David Ibata and Christopher Seward contributed to this article.