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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Contact: Ashlee J. L. Sherrill

ATF NRT Activated to Grand Rapids Fire Investigation

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrived on-scene yesterday, March 10, in Grand Rapids, Minn., to join local and state investigators in determining the origin and cause of a fire that destroyed two downtown businesses.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department responded to a fire Saturday, March 7, at the Lakeview Behavioral Health clinic, quickly spreading to the neighboring Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Surrounding fire departments helped extinguish the blaze.

After assessing the scene, the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Division, with concurrence of the local ATF field division, requested assistance from ATF’s NRT to provide resources and expertise to determine the cause of the fire.

"ATF’s National Response Team brings a wealth of knowledge and resources, to assist local fire departments during investigations of large structure fires such as this," said Special Agent in Charge William Terry Henderson, of the Saint Paul Field Division. "Nearly 25 ATF national response team members are activated for this investigation in addition to our local team of special agents who normally cover Minnesota and the surrounding states.

"The extra personnel will help move this investigation along more quickly," he continued. "Our goal here is to assist in a full investigation of this fire scene alongside our state and local partners, bringing it to a successful conclusion."

This is the second NRT call-out to the State of Minnesota in the last month. The team responded last month to the Press Bar and Parlor fire in St. Cloud. Prior to that, the NRT had not been in Minnesota since 2004.

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 explosions and fire incidents at no cost to the state or locals. The NRT consists of three teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in on-site investigations.

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. The teams work alongside state and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the fire.

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.

In addition to investigating hundreds of scenes, the NRT has been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon crash site, West Texas explosion, as well as blasts at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.

This is the seventh NRT activation this fiscal year and the 854th activation since the inception of the NRT in 1978.

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. For more information about ATF, go to and follow @ATFHQ and @ATFStPaul on Twitter.


St. Paul Field Division