GDOT says the cause of a tree fire near a highway in December is still unclear. A local man who took video of it says he knows the reason.
Photo: Channel 2 photos
Photo: Channel 2 photos

What caused a recent tree fire during I-285/Ga. 400 roadwork? 

Creed Crutchfield was driving home from work one day last month when he saw a fire near a busy highway in Sandy Springs.

Like anyone else would in 2018, the Roswell-based real estate agent whipped his phone out and began recording the blaze along Ga. 400. GDOT officials say the fire started because of a tree cutting project connected to the overhaul of I-285 and Ga. 400.

A month later GDOT couldn’t tell Channel 2 Action News what the specific cause of that fire was. The cause is “unclear,” said spokeswoman Natalie Dale, but GDOT and the project’s contractors are taking steps to make sure there’s no repeat.

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Dale told Channel 2 that contractors will monitor tree piles overnight, keep a water truck nearby, and not let those piles sit for more than two weeks at a time.

“We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and if we do have it, then we can address it quickly,” Dale told Channel 2.

Crutchfield is confident with his theory on how the fire started.

“Anybody knows that if you have a bunch of pine trees and things that you’re mulching up, and you add a little moisture to it, it starts steaming,” he told the news station. That got more intense, he said, then boom, I’m driving home from work and low and behold, it’s on fire. And by the way, it’s near a bridge. I’m thinking, ‘Here we go again,’.”

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The I-285 and Ga. 400 overhaul projects involves taking down trees along both highways

“Getting dirt moving, getting trees down, (that’s the) first step,” Dale told Channel 2. “Getting the new flyovers up, getting the new pavement ramps, getting new access roads, that’s what they’re awaiting to see.”

The three-year Transform 285/400 project is still on schedule, and commuters will start to notice substantial changes in the spring. If all goes well, the major overhaul of the roadways is expected to be completed by summer 2020.

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GDOT and contractors say they are changing procedures so something like this doesn't happen again.

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