ATF launched the first National Response Team (NRT) in 1978 as a mobile, rapid response team to investigate large fires, explosions and bombings. ATF now maintains several NRTs strategically located throughout the United States.
Responding anywhere in the United States within 24 hours, the NRTs work in conjunction with other federal, state and local investigators to reconstruct the scene, identify the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, and determine the cause of the event. In the case of bombings and arsons, NRT members gather evidence to support criminal prosecutions. Part of the NRT program, the International Response Team (IRT), can be deployed worldwide to investigate fires and explosions at the request of the U.S. Department of State.
ATF’s NRT includes specialized, elite personnel such as Certified Fire Investigators, Certified Explosives Specialists (CES), CES Bomb Technicians, Explosives Enforcement Officers, forensic chemists, engineers, medics, and canine handlers. The teams are supported by ATF’s intelligence research specialists, forensic auditors, digital media specialists, and other technical and legal experts who work with law enforcement on criminal cases.
As of March 2023, there have been 900 NRT and 41 IRT activations. Some of the past NRT/IRT activations include:
- Over 200 fire scenes resulting from civil unrest in Chicago, Illinois, Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Saint Paul, Minnesota during 2020.
- The 2020 Nashville, Tennessee, Christmas Day bombing.
- The Austin, Texas, serial bomber in 2018.
- The St. Lucia Quarry explosion in 2017.
- Serial commercial fires in Oakland, California in 2016 and 2017.
- A prison fire in Honduras that killed more than 350 inmates in 2012.
- An ammunition depot explosion in Albania that killed 26 people and wounded approximately 400 others in 2008.
- A supermarket fire in Paraguay that killed 348 people in 2004.
- The 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack.
- The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.