A homeless man has been arrested on suspicion of intentionally setting the fire that collapsed a portion of Interstate 85 in Atlanta, part of an elevated interstate that will now be closed for months.
Basil Eleby was arrested in connection with Thursday evening’s fire under I-85, CNN reports. No one was injured in the fire, which burned for hours, but an estimated 220,000-plus vehicles will be affected now that sections of the road will need to be replaced, closing five lanes in both directions for the foreseeable future.
Eleby has been charged with first-degree criminal damage to property. Two others, Sophia Bruner and Barry Thomas, believed to have been with Eleby when he set the fire, according to authorities, have been charged with criminal trespassing but were released by police Friday night.
CNN reports that police didn’t say how investigators came to suspect the trio, or anything about a motive. They also did not note how the fire was started, but what is known is that the blaze began in a fenced-in area under the expressway where the state stores construction materials, including HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipes.
The impact of the fire was immediate and expected to get worse. There has reportedly been a 50 percent increase on I-285 that rings the city and a 25 percent increase in traffic on major streets near the closed area, according to a spokesperson from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The Atlanta Braves will play this season at their new stadium along the I-285 bypass, and many vacationers use the freeway to get to points further south and north.
“I think it’s as serious a transportation crisis as we could have,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Thursday evening.
Read more at CNN.