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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

July 29, 2011

Contact: Charlotte Field Division

Contact: Earl Woodham

ATF Supervisory PIO

Cell: 704-591-5005

ATF National Response Team Activated to Asheville, NC

One Firefighter Killed and 10 Injured While Suppressing Business Fire

ASHEVILLE, NC – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT), along with ATF special agents from the Charlotte Field Division, have entered the investigation of a commercial fire that occurred Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 445 Biltmore Avenue, in Asheville, North Carolina. The NRT responded at the request of the Asheville Fire Department.

Zebedee T. Graham, special agent in charge of the ATF Charlotte Field Division, said that the building housing several medical related businesses was significantly damaged by fire, smoke and water and early estimates of damages are in excess of $1 million. One firefighter was killed and 10 others were injured in the line of duty while suppressing the fire.

The ATFNRT has brought definitive expertise and an array of state-of-the-art equipment to the investigation of major fire and explosives incidents since 1978. Four regional components, organized geographically to cover the United States, comprise the NRT. The team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement or fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

The responding NRT component normally has 18 members, including 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; and intelligence, computer forensic and audit support. A fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States provides logistical support. The responding NRT Team Supervisor is Supervisory Special Agent Christopher J. Hyman, who is stationed in Greenville, South Carolina.

ATF’s partnership with federal, state and local officers is vital to the most effective processing efforts at an explosives or fire scene. The NRT capitalizes on that by working alongside its partners in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or the origin of the fire, conducting interviews and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the explosion or fire.

In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire and explosives scenes, the NRT trucks were deployed for the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon; the Olympics and other major sporting events in the United States; presidential inaugurations and the national political conventions; and major international conferences.

This is the 6th NRT activation in the Carolinas over the past 3 years, including activations in Spruce Pine, Salisbury, Robbins and Garner, NC and Charleston, SC in 2007. The NRT program began in 1978 and the teams have been activated over 700 times nationwide. Other agencies involved in the investigation are the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Asheville Fire Department.