Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ATF National Response Team Activated To Investigate Howard Johnson Inn Fire

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) along with ATF special agents from the Gulfport Field Office have been activated by request from the Fort Bayou Volunteer Fire Department, the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Jackson County Fire Department to investigate the Oct. 17 fire at the Howard Johnson Inn, located at 7412 Tucker Road, in Ocean Springs, Miss. The NRT will arrive today to conduct an assessment of the fire scene and formulate an investigative plan with state and local investigators.

The fire scene consists of a three story buildings with a combined area of approximately 30,000 square feet. The roof of the buildings was destroyed but no deaths or injuries were reported.

ATF is investigating the fire jointly with the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Fort Bayou Volunteer Fire Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. “We will work together in partnership to determine the origin and cause of this fire”, said Joel Lee, ATF Resident Agent in Charge of the ATF Gulfport Field Office. He estimates total loss of the business to be approximately $4 million.

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 one team administratively organized into three geographic regions 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.

The responding NRT component typically has 20 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; 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. In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire and explosives scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City Murray Federal Building bombing and the 9/11 Pentagon crash site, as well as explosions at explosives and ammunition manufacturing operations. The NRT is also deployed to support the safety and security at the Olympics and other major sporting events in the United States; presidential inaugurations and national political conventions; and major international conferences.

This is the 737th activation of the NRT and first in fiscal year 2013.

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