Florida takes a look at its interstates after Atlanta fire, collapse

Highway construction under interstates

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the fire in Atlanta, area leaders are asking the question: Can this happen to one of the interstates on the First Coast?

To ensure that it doesn’t, the Florida Department of Transportation met in Tallahassee Friday to devise a preventative plan across the state.

Since they believe the fire may have been caused by some construction materials stored below the interstate, which also happens in Jacksonville, FDOT is having every construction site manager and engineer across the state check on properties and make sure that protocol is being followed and nothing looks out of place.

The inspections will occur in the coming days and weeks all over Florida.

“We told all of our construction engineers to start inspecting to make sure we don’t have any issues here in Florida,” said Ron Tittle, spokesman for the FDOT. “Safety is our number one priority.”

Tittle says they already have standards in place but this will ensure that those standards are being followed.

We also spoke with a local district chief with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department about the complications PVC pipes could make when stores under interstates.

“It puts off a toxic gas and if you were enclosed with it it would suffocate you eventually,” said chief Jack Griggs. “They are definitely something out department is really concerned about. If that is what caught fire out there then I think they were very prudent in how they treated it, packing people up, making sure they were well protected when they attacked the fire.”

An important question still lingering about the Atlanta fire is how it became so hot so fast.

“The average house fire is 1100 degrees, but that was probably generating up to 1800 or 2000 degrees and even though it’s concrete nothing can stand up to that temperature for an extended amount of time.”

Another question posed by both Tittle and Griggs has to do with the science of the structure, how close was the interstate to the materials below? Was there enough distance? That, Tittle says, is up to the Department of Homeland Security. Any design plans for interstates or any city infrastructure are kept from the public because if they were to get in to the wrong hands they could become a target and someone could try to find a weak spot.

That’s one fact Georgia officials have pointed out they say the fire was not related to terrorism.

First Coast News will be following the progress of FDOT as they make their inspections of construction sites. FDOT says we have some of the safest bridges in the country. As for our interstates, that is the purpose of the construction in the first place, to bring them up to date. If anything looks like it could pose a problem they will discuss what kind of changes they need to make so the incident in Atlanta doesn’t happen anywhere else.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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