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Updated: 5:14 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 | Posted: 7:26 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

MLK Drive bridge reopens after fire

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MLK bridge fire photo
John Spink, jspink@ajc.com
Wednesday morning bridge inspectors surveyed the damage beneath the MLK Drive bridge, which was closed because of a fire Tuesday afternoon. Concrete began falling from a section of the bridge that had been stressed by heat from intense flames and then doused in cooling water. John Spink, jspink@ajc.com
MLK bridge fire photo
John Spink, jspink@ajc.com
Bridge inspectors surveyed the damage beneath the MLK Drive bridge, which was closed because of a fire Tuesday afternoon near downtown Atlanta. The blaze broke out in an area beneath the bridge, which is frequented by homeless people.
MLK Drive bridge reopens after fire photo
Atlanta authorities inspect the area beneath the MLK Drive bridge, which was closed by fire Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)
MLK Drive bridge reopens after fire photo
The MLK Drive bridge was shut down Tuesday afternoon when fire broke out below it. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)
MLK Drive bridge reopens after fire photo
Smoke rises above downtown Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon after fire broke out beneath the MLK Drive bridge. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

By Mike Morris and John Spink

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

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