ATF created the International Response Teams (IRTs) in 1991 to support to international requests for assistance on major fire and explosives investigations. They are the overseas counterpart to ATF’s National Response Teams (NRTs) which operate within the country.
IRTs assist in investigating large-vehicle bombings, providing technical support in the disassembly of improvised explosive devices, and provide investigative oversight in large-scale fires that resulted in a massive loss of life and/or multi-million dollar property damage. Their training also prepares them to safely disassemble and analyze improvised explosive devices as part of the investigative process.
Veteran ATF employees such as forensic chemists, intelligence research specialists and special agents are eligible to apply for internal job openings on the IRTs. ATF special agents are required to possess professional certifications as a Certified Fire Investigator, Certified Explosives Specialist (CES), CES Bomb Technician or Explosives Enforcement Officer in order to be considered for the team. Candidates need experience working on fire and explosion investigations and must have served on 10 or more National Response Team missions. They also need proficiency in a foreign language and a minimum of five years’ experience as a special agent at the GS-13 grade level.
IRTs are only activated when foreign governments ask ATF for technical and forensic assistance in a major fire, explosion or bombing incident. Once deployed, IRTs provide oversight of arson and explosives investigations and collaborate with foreign partner agencies to identify leads. In this way, the United States is able to share ATF’s vast technical expertise in fire and explosion dynamics and deep experience in criminal investigations of fire and explosion scenes with its international partners.