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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF Press Release

Contact: Public Information Officer Corey Ray
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

ATF’s National Response Team Deploys to South Carolina Apartment Fire Investigation

WASHINGTON – The Charlotte Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requested ATF’s National Response Team join the investigation into the May 26 structure fire at the Tropical Ridge Apartments in Columbia, South Carolina.

NRT members arrived in South Carolina on Sunday, May 28, to assist in the investigation of the structure fire. During fire suppression activities, a structural collapse occurred which resulted in injuries to six firefighters and the death of James Michael Muller, a seven-year veteran of the Irmo Fire District. The Columbia Fire Department and Columbia Police Department requested assistance with the investigation of the fire from the South Carolina State Fire Marshal's Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and ATF. The origin and cause of the fire is pending further investigation.

“ATF’s National Response Team brings in specialized investigators to assist local and state departments dealing with complex, large-scale incidents,” said ATF’s Charlotte Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims. “We want to provide every level of support after such a tragic loss. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the Irmo Fire District, the family and friends of Firefighter James Michael Muller, and the firefighters who were injured in this fire.”

This is the 15th NRT activation this fiscal year and the 906th since the program began in 1978. The NRT provides an immediate and sustained nationwide response capability, typically deploying within 24 hours of notification, with state-of-the-art equipment and highly qualified ATF personnel specializing in fire origin and cause determination.

The team brings definitive expertise and an array of state-of-the-art equipment to the investigation of major fire and explosives incidents. The NRT is comprised of three regional components, organized geographically to cover the United States, allowing for a rapid response to incidents nationwide.

Past NRT activations include such incidents as: the 2020 Nashville “Christmas Day” bombing; more than 200 fire scenes resulting from civil unrest throughout the Midwest in 2020; a series of bombings in Austin, Texas, in 2018; 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.

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

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