Sample Block

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

March 6, 2012

Contact: Special Agent Robert Schmidt, PIO-ATF

Office (651) 726-0316

ATF National Response Team Activated to Local Theater in Abbotsford, WI

One Firefighter Killed, 4 Injured While Suppressing Fire

ABBOTSFORD, Wis. – The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the St. Paul Field Division have been activated by request from the Abbotsford Fire Department and the State of Wisconsin-Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation-State Fire Marshal’s Office to investigate a fire at the Abby Theatre. The fire which occurred around noon on Sunday killed one firefighter and injured four others from the Colby and Abbotsford Fire Departments during the suppression efforts. The team of two dozen agents and specialists arrived yesterday and started the scene investigation this morning.

ATF is investigating this tragic fire jointly with the State of Wisconsin-Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation-State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Bernard J. Zapor, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division. We will work together in partnership to determine the origin and cause of this fatal fire.

The Abbotsford Fire Department, Colby-Abbotsford Police Department and Clark County Sheriff’s Department are assisting in the investigation. The total loss of the Abby Theatre, 216 N. 1st St., Abbotsford, Wis. is estimated to between $300,000 and $500,000. This is the fifth activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2012, and the 726th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to investigate in partnership with federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant arson and explosives incidents. The NRT consists of three teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to work jointly with state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations. In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing and the 9/11 Pentagon crash site, as well as explosions at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.

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 forensic audit support. The teams work alongside state and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the bombing/arson. Further complementing the team's efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisors.

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