WSDOT says I-5 built to withstand 'punishment' after small fires

KING 5's Dan Cassuto asked WSDOT if engineers are worried about fires in homeless camps causing damage to the structure of our roads and bridges

SEATTLE -- Traffic cameras from WSDOT captured thick plumes of smoke pouring out from a fire under a stretch of Interstate 5 near downtown Seattle on Friday morning.

While this fire did not cause any structural damage whatsoever to the highway, it reminded us of the major fire under an Atlanta highway earlier this month that destroyed part of the road.

We asked Travis Phelps, a spokesman for WSDOT, if engineers were concerned about fires starting and spreading from homeless camps under or alongside bridges, highways and overpasses.

"Our bridges are made to withstand some punishment," said Phelps. "It's not some paper or boxes. It has to be intense flame."

Phelps added the fire in Atlanta burned at an extreme temperature for an hour.

"It's going to take a lot more than a campfire [to damage a highway]," he said. "There's steel inside these bridges that has to fatigue and melt the concrete that surrounds those, that has to crack apart, that takes a lot more heat than a campfire can dish out."

Even if a campfire spread and engulfed other tents or objects nearby, Phelps said it is highly unlikely the fire would be intense enough to cause any damage to the highway structure.

KING


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