Homeless Authority investigating fire under President Street bridge

Homeless Authority investigating fire under President Street bridge.

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - We're learning more about a fire under a bridge on President Street.

Earlier this week, we told you the Georgia Department of Transportation was focusing on cleaning up under bridges because of safety concerns. The area in question has since been cleaned up, but that wasn't the case on Tuesday when a fire proved some fears the GDOT has had for a long time.

Cindy Kelley of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless says when the fire happened Tuesday night, most of the residents were out and about. She says because of the fire, the Homeless Authority staff is encouraging residents to find somewhere else to camp, as the area will be cleaned by GDOT by the end of the month because of health and safety concerns. She says as they investigate, they know the fire could be one of two things.

"There are two conflicting reports. One is that is was started as a result of cooking and the other report is that someone threw a match in a barrel and it started the fire," Kelley said.

Out of the 22 homeless camps in Savannah, five are set to be cleaned by the end of the month.

"This is an ongoing challenge for our whole community. It's not just one agency," Kelley said. "Our government entity; it's all of our problem. We have a really large homeless population and they naturally gravitate to places where there's good cover."

We did the story Monday about how GDOT wanted to clear the camps under bridges to keep the roads and bridges safe, and prevent things like fires. About 24 hours later, Savannah Fire was under the bridge on President Street putting out a fire in the most populous homeless community.

"GDOT cares about the safety of the rest of our community. They don't want fires underneath bridges as it happened last evening and in Atlanta, and so they are methodically going through and doing cleanup," Kelley said.

GDOT mostly says they don't want to keep putting out fires under that bridge, or any bridges for that matter, and end up in a situation like the I-85 bridge fire in Atlanta.

Initially, the Homeless Authority didn't want those bridges to be bothered by the city unless those homeless families had new shelter.

"We're trying to do what we're supposed to do and we are trying to figure out how to work together," Kelley said.

She says no one has the authority to actually make the homeless community move, but they can clean them out.

"We tend to focus on short-term things like moving a camp, but it doesn't really work like that because those homeless people don't go away. They just go to another camp."

She says if anyone wants to help, call 912.790.3400.

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