ATF National Response Team Activated to Investigate Robbins, NC Fire
by Jim Kouri
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team, along with ATF special agents from the Charlotte Field Division, have entered the investigation of a large commercial fire that occurred Sunday, August 17, 2008, at 200 Kennedy Street in Robbins, NC. The NRT responded at the request of the Robbins Fire and Police Departments.
Zebedee T. Graham, special agent in charge of the ATF Charlotte Field Division, said that the business, formally the Milliken plant, suffered significant fire damage and early estimates of the damages are in excess of $1 million. Fire departments from 5 surrounding counties assisted in suppressing the fire.
The NRT 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 Chris Porreca stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Team Special Agent in Charge is Carl Vasilko, stationed in Louisville, Kentucky.
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 4th NRT activation in the Carolinas over the past 14 months, including activations in Spruce Pine and Salisbury, NC, and Charleston, SC in 2007. The NRT program began in 1978 and has been activated 656 times since, with 17 activations so far in 2008. Other agencies involved in the investigation are the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Robbins Police and Fire Departments, the Moore County Fire Marshal, and the Lee County Sheriff's Department.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.