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Officials investigating cause of brush fires that shut down I-20

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

CONYERS -- Officials have not determined what caused the brush fires that shut down part of Interstate 20 during rush hour traffic Thursday evening.

A string of separate brush fires broke out late in the afternoon, causing heavy smoke along the roadway. The fires stretched along Interstate 20 from about Sigman Road to Wesley Chapel in DeKalb County, according to reports.

"We can't really speculate. There can be 15 to 20 different reasons why the fires started," Rockdale Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lee said Friday morning. "With the amount of burning that happened on the side of road way out on the road, we'll probably never know."

Firefighters contained the fire and left the scene about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Lee said they dug about 500 yards of containment line using a tractor plow to keep the fire from spreading.

The Georgia Forestry Commission assisted in battling the blazes. Lee said the same techniques used to control a wildfire were put in practice Thursday.

"It was ground cover fires, and we went out and took care of the problem and prevented the fire from getting to any structures," Lee said. "And it's unfortunate that we don't know an exact cause."

He said "anything is possible" in figuring out what caused the fires, including sparks from a truck dragging a chain on the road.

Lee said local firefighters are still running calls on the fires, as residents call in sightings of smoke along the interstate.

He estimated there may continue to be smoke and smoldering of stumps and limbs until the next rain puts it out completely.

"But there's no danger. It's inside a contained area," Lee said. "We feel it is safe to be where it is."