MADISON, Wis. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) arrived yesterday on-scene and will begin the scene investigation today at the Grandview Commons apartment complex fire, 500 block of Apollo Way, in Madison.
Two dozen special agents and specialists with the NRT and agents from the St. Paul Field Division were activated by request of the Madison Fire Department, Madison Police Department and the State of Wisconsin-Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation-State Fire Marshal’s Office. The fire was reported at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8, at the 105-unit apartment complex, which was under construction, and was heavily involved when the Madison Fire Department arrived. The Madison Fire and Police Joint Task Force is also assisting in the investigation.
“ATF is investigating this fire with our state and local partners and will work together as one unit to determine the origin and cause of this fire,” said ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeffery A. Magee, of the St. Paul Field Division.
The total loss of the Grandview Commons complex is estimated at $3.5 to 5 million. This is the 10th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2014, and the 757th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.
The primary mission of the NRT is to concentrate ATF explosives and fire investigative resources and expertise on large scale incidents, or on more complex investigations due to the size, scope, or number of victims as a result of the incident. The NRT provides an immediate and sustained nationwide response capability, typically deploying within 24 hours of notification, with state-of-the-art equipment and the most qualified ATF personnel available.
The NRT works in conjunction with other investigators to reconstruct the scene, identify the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, and determine the cause. In the case of bombings and arsons, NRT members gather evidence to support criminal prosecutions. A deployed team is generally broken down into two components: a group that processes the scene and an investigative-lead element. In the course of the overall investigation, both components coordinate daily to ensure investigative continuity.
The NRT is composed of veteran special agents, including certified explosives specialists, certified fire investigators, forensic mapping specialists, accelerant and explosives detection canine teams, explosives enforcement officers, fire protection engineers, electrical engineers and forensic chemists.
Past NRT activations include such incidents as the explosion in West, Texas, that killed 14 people in 2013; the spree of 10 arsons at churches in Texas in 2010; a commercial fire in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine firefighters in 2007; and national-level incidents such as the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon; the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta; the Oklahoma City bombing; and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The NRT’s resources include a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States that allow the NRT to be self-contained for the forensic examination of explosives and ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at http://www.atf.gov/.