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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

October 23, 2010

Contact: Special Agent Mike Campbell
202-648-8021 (Office)
202-327-4195 (Cell)

ATF Enters Investigation Into Historic Virginia Theological Seminary Chapel Fire

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with ATF special agents from Falls Church Virginia and Washington DC have entered the investigation into a fire at the Virginia Theological Seminary, located at 3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA. The fire was contained to the historic chapel on the grounds of the Seminary. Initial estimates established a dollar loss of over two million dollars due to the fire.

ATF is utilizing all available resources to help determine the cause of the fire that destroyed a treasured landmark that meant a lot to many people in this region, said Edgar A. Domenech, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Washington Field Division. The Alexandria Fire Department requested additional ATF resources, and we will be working together with their investigators in this joint investigation.

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to bring its expertise to federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant arson and explosives incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon crash site, as well as blasts at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.

The teams are each composed of veteran special agents who have post-blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise; forensic chemists; explosives enforcement officers; fire protection engineers; accelerant detection canines; explosives detection canines; intelligence support, computer forensic support and audit support. The teams work alongside state and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the bombing/arson.

Further complementing the teams’ efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisers. Moreover, a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.

Since the inception of the NRT program, the teams have been activated to major fire and explosions investigation over 695 times.

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at