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Friday January 17th, 2020 10:57AM

Officials implement policy change after 2017 bridge collapse

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) The kind of materials that fed a fire below a metro Atlanta highway overpass which collapsed last year will no longer be stored under state bridges, officials said. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation has officially declared that ``only non-combustible materials may be stored under bridges,'' news outlets reported. The policy was finalized in April following the blaze that destroyed part of Interstate 85 in March 2017. 

A department spokeswoman told WSB-TV on Monday the policy was formalized, and includes input from the state fire marshal's office. 

The department previously said it has stopped storing combustible material under Georgia bridges. 

A homeless man, Basil Eleby, was accused of setting the fire, but the National Transportation Safety Board said last month that the material the department stored underneath had contributed to the flames. 

Eleby's lawyer, Mawuli Davis, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the policy confirms the cause of the fire was directly related to the department's ``negligent practices'' and not any criminal act committed by Eleby. 

The department has acknowledged that its stored materials contributed to the I-85 fire, but it has maintained the main cause was arson. 

In December, Eleby's case was transferred to Fulton County's Behavioral Health Treatment Court. If he completes a court mental health program, the charges against him will be dropped. 

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