UPDATE: Cause of 280 fire ‘undetermined,’ residents complain of ash, smoke

Published 5:37 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

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By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

CHELSEA — The cause of a brush fire that resulted in westbound lanes of U.S. 280 being shut down the afternoon of Thursday, April 22 is “undetermined” according to Chelsea Fire Chief Joe Lee.

Chelsea and Cahaba Valley fire departments, along with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the blaze near the intersection of 280 and Essex Drive. The lanes shut down were between Shelby County 41 and Shelby County 43, but the lanes were reopened by 6 p.m.

“They were able to put it out yesterday before it got to any homes or anything,” Lee said. “I’m so thankful that we were able to get in front of it and get it put out.”

There has been speculation among the public about the fire possibly spreading from a controlled burn of tornado debris, but Lee said there was “no possible way” to tie the two together definitively.

The controlled burn is underway on county property near the future location of Shelby County’s Emergency Operation Center and the adjacent SportsBlast complex.

“It could be any number of things,” Lee said of the potential cause. “It would be impossible from all the different scenarios for us to narrow it down.”

County Manager Chad Scroggins said he was on the scene and that the fire was started from the edge of pavement, from something that ignited a spark in the area. Scroggins also said he had photos that show the same.

Scroggins maintained there was “absolutely no relation” between the fire and the controlled burn site.

Still, area residents have been complaining of smoke and ash in the area, particularly during the morning time.

“People can’t go outside any more, and you smell smoke all the time,” said one resident who asked to remain unnamed.

Another said, ““It’s just very problematic, and people who have asthma, they can’t go outside because it’s so thick. Literally we have ashes falling on us when we’re walking.”

When asked about the issue, Scroggins said he had heard similar complaints but said that the site is located 1,500 feet from any home and should not pose any threat to property.

“It’s on its way out now. We’re in the process of wrapping up that whole operation. In the course of a few days, it will be completely wrapped up,” he said.