ATF seal
ATF text
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 10, 2015
Contact: Special Agent Robert Schmidt, PIO-ATF

ATF National Response Team Deploys to Sturgis, SD Fire Investigation

STURGIS — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) arrived Wednesday night and will begin the scene investigation today at the Full Throttle Saloon fire, located on 12997 South Dakota Highway 34 in Sturgis, S.D.

Two dozen special agents and specialists with the NRT, along with agents from the St. Paul ATF Field Division, were activated at the request of the South Dakota State Fire Marshall’s Office.    The fire was reported at approximately 12:17 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the massive entertainment complex and was heavily involved when the Sturgis Fire Department arrived.  The South Dakota State Fire Marshall’s Office, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Meade County Sheriff’s Office and the Sturgis Police Department are also assisting in the investigation.

“ATF, along with our state and local partners, will team together to determine the origin and cause of this fire,” said Special Agent in Charge James C. Modzelewski, of the St. Paul Field Division.

The total loss of the Full Throttle Saloon complex is estimated at $10 million dollars.  This is the 15th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2015, and the 773rd activation since the inception of the team in 1978.

The primary mission of the NRT is to concentrate ATF explosives and fire investigative resources and expertise on large scale incidents, or on more complex investigations due to the size, scope, or number of victims as a result of the incident.  The NRT provides an immediate and sustained nationwide response capability, typically deploying within 24 hours of notification, with state-of-the-art equipment and the most qualified ATF personnel available.

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

The NRT is composed of veteran special agents, including certified explosives specialists, certified fire investigators, forensic mapping specialists, accelerant and explosives detection canine teams, explosives enforcement officers, fire protection engineers, electrical engineers and forensic chemists.

Past NRT activations include such incidents as an explosion in West Texas that killed 14 people in 2013; the spree of 10 arsons at churches in Texas in 2010; a commercial fire in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine firefighters in 2007; and national-level incidents such as the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon; the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta; the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The NRT’s resources include a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States that allow the NRT to be self-contained for the forensic examination of explosives and

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



St. Paul Field Division