ATLANTA - Georgia’s State Fire Marshal says homeless man is not a scapegoat for bridge Fire.
Dwayne Garriss said his investigators talked with two witnesses who placed arson suspect Basil Eleby at the scene.
Georgia Fire Marshal Garriss said the homeless witnesses were separated when they were interviewed the day after the interstate inferno, but relayed identical accounts of what happened March 30 sometime before 6 o'clock.
"The statement we have is that [Sophia Brauer] saw Mr. Eleby put a chair, a stuffed chair on top of a shopping cart. It happened to be a Target shopping cart made of plastic and put his hand underneath, then we had a fire,” the Garriss reported.
Authorities said Eleby, who slept in a 1998 Mercedes Benz, and two other people were all inside the fenced in area, where the GDOT stored spools of conduit with high levels of petroleum.
Garriss acknowledges that the flammable products GDOT stored under the interstate caused the fire to spread rapidly.
But without the materials store there, would the fire have gotten as big as it did?
“I would tend to say ‘No’ because fire requires heat, oxygen, and fuel, so that was the fuel,” Marshal Garriss responded.
The fire marshal said Atlanta’s misfortunes are serving as a wakeup call for other cities.
“The commissioner of DOT sent it out to the transportation association, information about this and there are other states. I just came from up north, Maryland, that’s got 252 bridges right now. They are pulling stuff out from under immediately because of our fire,” Garriss said.
Garris said Eleby, who is charged with arson, has recanted his explanation of how the fire started. He is now represented by a number of high powered lawyers that expected to defend him vigorously.