I-85 fire: Section of Atlanta highway collapses

Firefighters battled the fire that eventually led to the collapse of part of Interstate 85

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An elevated section of northbound Interstate 85, a major north-south artery for the Southeast, collapsed Thursday evening in Atlanta after a massive fire, officials said.

An elevated section of northbound Interstate 85, a major north-south artery for the Southeast, collapsed Thursday evening in Atlanta after a massive fire, officials said.

All five lanes of the highway in each direction were blocked and will be closed for the foreseeable future, officials said.

That prospect sent shudders through metro Atlanta commuters, who already contend with heavy traffic. An estimated 250,000 vehicles drive daily through that stretch of I-85, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Officials scrambled to come up with alternate routes and encouraged riders to use public transit.

Cortez Stafford, a spokesman with the Atlanta Fire Department, said a unit was returning from another fire when it saw heavy smoke coming from under I-85.

"There was a 40-feet or higher wall of fire. Power lines were falling and arcing heavily and falling in the streets," Stafford told CNN.

The elevated span of highway -- a few miles north of downtown -- collapsed about 7 p.m. as crews battling the fire got out of danger. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

As concrete began falling from under the bridge, firefighters were asked to step back, Stafford said. "Not even two minutes later, the highway fell with a big 'kaboom.' (It) knocked our guys back."

There were no reported injuries.

The section that fell, which appeared to be 75 to 100 feet long, broke at the point of pillar support, a CNN correspondent observed.

In an unusual move, two fire trucks from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in south Atlanta came to the scene and sprayed foam on the fallen section and flames.

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