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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Thursday, January 28, 2021

ATF National Response Team Activated to Join the Investigation of Fire that Injured 4 Firefighters

Chula Vista, California – The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with ATF special agents from the Los Angeles Field Division, were activated to join the investigation of the fire that occurred Monday at Action Footwear, 655 H St., Chula Vista, California, injuring four firefighters from Chula Vista Fire Department.  

Initially an ATF Certified Fire Investigator responded to the scene to assist Chula Vista Fire Investigators with the origin and cause investigation. Based upon the size of the building, the amount of fire damage, and the firefighter injuries, Chula Vista Fire Department requested the assistance of ATF’s NRT. 

“The City of Chula Vista appreciates the support of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” said CVFD Fire Chief Harry Muns. “It’s important to determine the cause of the fire and this effort requires additional resources.”

The NRT started processing the scene today. The NRT members will be working jointly with the ATF Los Angeles Field Division, and the Chula Vista Fire Department’s Fire Investigation Team. 

“ATF is committed to working alongside Chula Vista Fire Department to determine the origin and cause of this fire that injured firefighters,” said Special Agent in Charge of ATF Los Angeles Field Division Monique Villegas. “ATF will provide whatever resources are necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers.”

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. This is the fifth NRT activation this fiscal year and 868th callout since the inception of the program. 

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. 

Other activations of the NRT in Southern California include: the July 2020 USS Bonhomme Richard fire that left extensive damage to the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship docked off Naval Base San Diego; the May 2020 Boyd Street fire in downtown Los Angeles tragically injuring 12 firefighters; the March 2019 fire at Off Road Warehouse in San Diego; and the 2019 Labor Day fire on the dive boat Conception killing 34 people while the ship was anchored off Santa Cruz Island. 

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Los Angeles Field Division