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Homeless encampment sparks fire under Atlanta bridge

Fire crews found grills, mattresses, propane tanks, trash generators and furniture burning.

ATLANTA — A massive fire broke out underneath another Atlanta bridge over the weekend. Atlanta Fire officials said it started because of a homeless encampment.

The fire happened underneath the bridge near the Buford connector. Crews worked to survey the damage Monday. 

A resident who lives nearby said he sees fires in the area constantly. 

"Since I've been here, there have been at least five, but I'm sure it's more. It tends to be garbage or tents burning," he said.

Video shared by Atlanta Fire Company 29 shows black smoke billowing from underneath the bridge near I-285 where Cheshire Bridge turns into Lenox Road.

As firefighters doused down the flames, they said the fire started because of a homeless encampment. Fire crews found grills, mattresses, propane tanks, trash generators and furniture burning.

"It's damaging more than just the actual structures. It's roadways, it's gas lines, it's waterlines. It's a big problem," a resident of the area said. 

Fire officials said the heat from the fire warped some of the steel and even caused a few breaks in the concrete. No injuries were reported and the bridge is able to remain open.

It was a different story in August, less than a mile away when the bridge that crossed over Peachtree Creek caught fire. The fire burned for 24 hours rupturing a 40-inch gas line. 

Demolition on that bridge began earlier this month with plans to start rebuilding it next year. Atlanta fire officials said there was a homeless camp under that bridge as well. However, the cause of the fire remains undetermined. 

"I think they really need a designated space. A space maybe that the city has developed so they aren't so dependent on creating fires and burning things to stay warm," a resident said.

Atlanta mayoral candidate Andre Dickens said Atlanta needs a housing-first model for homelessness. 

"What we need to do is a housing first model, really buy up the vacant motels in our city or just outside our city and get them up to a decent level where we can immediately place the homeless individuals in for 60-90 days so we can triage their situation," Dickens said. 

He added homeless individuals may be battling their mental health, addiction or could be escaping from domestic violence. 

"So what we have to do is give them a place where they can shower, have a bed and be fed. Then we can triage their situation and that would really help get our homeless situation down. We’d have to pay a little bit upfront," Dickens said.

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