Police Make Arrests, Say Atlanta Highway Fire Was Intentional

Homeless man accused of starting blaze under I-85
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2017 6:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – Two men and one woman have been arrested in connection with a massive fire that could leave traffic in Atlanta snarled for months. Basil Eleby, the man believed to have intentionally started a blaze that caused an overpass on Interstate 85 to collapse, was booked on suspicion of first-degree criminal damages to property, which could get him up to 10 years in prison, CNN reports. Two other suspects facing criminal trespassing charges were identified as Sophia Bruner and Barry Thomas. Authorities believe all three suspects are homeless. "We believe they were together when the fire was set and Eleby is the one who set the fire," said Jay Florence, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Insurance.

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Eleby has been arrested at least 19 times for offenses including assault and cocaine trafficking, WXIA reports. Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry says the fire started during rush hour Thursday in an area under the highway where the state stores materials including high-density polyethylene piping used for fiber optics networks, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Nobody was injured in the blaze, but repairing and replacing around 700 feet of affected roadway in both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-85 is expected to take months. The federal government has agreed to chip in $10 million toward reconstruction costs. (Read more Atlanta stories.)

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