Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – When substantial fires or explosions happen, law enforcement agencies may need more assistance with investigations. The ATF offers a specialized team to assist with those situations, but even those experts need to hone their skills.

For more than 40 years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has operated a specialized team to respond to large-scale fires and explosions across the country.

“The National Response Team has within its cadre very qualified special agents that are just great fire and explosive investigators,” said Supervisor Chris Forkner.

Forkner says the NRT works with local and state officials to determine the cause of a fire or explosion. Even though team members are experts in their field, they still need to sharpen their skills, and many are doing so this week at Volk Field.

The military base contains a training ground known as the React Center, and director Matt Davies was able to accommodate the ATF’s needs.

“They came up with some specific items that they wanted to cover; we came up with ways to get it so that they could do that. We’re going to try to work with them in the future to expand on it,” said Davies

Instructors with the React Center were able to train NRT members on a variety of unique skills.

“Scene excavation, use of oxyacetylene torches, Bobcats, cranes, shoring techniques, things that help us stay safe,” said Forkner.

Forkner hopes participants will come away from the training as more effective members of the NRT.

“When they work with our state and local partners, whether it’s fire department heavy rescue or contractors that bring in heavy equipment, that we can effectively utilize those resources on these scenes to quickly, efficiently, and effectively determine our areas of origin, our causes of these fires and these explosions,” said Forkner.

Of the nearly 130 people that make up the NRT, Forkner estimates 120 took part in the training over the last few weeks.

The ATF National Response Team was called in to investigate a resort fire in the Wisconsin Dells in 2018. The team also assisted with arsons in Kenosha in 2020.