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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Friday, March 29, 2019
Contact: Ginger Colbrun

ATF National Response Team Activated to Join the Investigation of the $3.5 Million Fire at Off Road Warehouse

San Diego – The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the Los Angeles Field Division were activated Thursday to join the investigation of the fire that occurred at Off Road Warehouse, 7915 Balboa Ave., San Diego, California. The fire was first reported at 1:28 a.m. Thursday.  

The NRT is arriving today and will be processing the scene tomorrow. About 25 special agents and other experts with the NRT were activated to join the investigation at the request of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD). The NRT will be working jointly with the ATF Los Angeles Field Division, SDFD, and the San Diego Police Department.   

The 12,700-square-foot structure and its contents were a total loss at an estimated $3.5 million. The blaze comes five months after the building caught fire damaging some of its space in November 2018.

“ATF is committed to working alongside state and local law enforcement by bringing its resources to determine the origin and cause of this fire that resulted in a total loss for this business,” said Special Agent in Charge of ATF Los Angeles Field Division Carlos A. Canino. “ATF will provide whatever is necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers.”

Federal, state and local investigators can request an NRT activation to investigate significant fire, arson and explosion incidents. The NRT provides an immediate and sustained nationwide response capability, deploying within 24 hours of notification, with state-of-the-art equipment and qualified ATF personnel.

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 of an incident. In the case of bombings and arsons, NRT members gather evidence to support criminal prosecutions. A deployed NRT 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. 

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 explosives and arson incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States.

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. 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.

This is the 9th NRT activation in fiscal year 2019 and the 841st since the inception of the NRT.

Other activations of the NRT in California include the 2018 five-alarm fire in Oakland; the 2018 blaze resulting in the $55 million loss of the Northern California Concord apartment complex; the 2015 fire in San Marco at Holland Motor Homes causing $4 million in damage; the 2014 Da Vinci complex blaze in Los Angeles causing $30 million in damage to the complex and an additional $50 million in damage to the Department of Water and Power building.

SDFD is responsible for all fire, emergency medical, lifeguard and emergency management services. It covers 343 square miles with more than 1.4 million residents. The department has 52 fire stations, nine permanent lifeguard stations and employs about 1,200 firefighters, lifeguards and civilian personnel. SDFD is the host agency for the San Diego Metro Arson Strike Team which is made up of specially trained fire investigators from SDFD, San Diego Police Dept., ATF and FBI. 

For more information, follow ATF on Twitter @LosAngelesATF.


Los Angeles Field Division