ATF Takes Part in Coral Gables (Fla.) Fire Investigation; Damages in Excess of $1 Million

May 21, 2004

The National Response Team (NRT) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), United States Justice Department along with ATF special agents from Miami, have entered the investigation of a commercial fire that occurred on Thursday morning, May 20, at the Moroccan Nights Restaurant, 1630 Ponce DeLeon Avenue, Coral Gables, Fla. at the request of the Coral Gables Fire Department.

Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of ATF in Miami said
that the location, which was home to the Moroccan Nights Restaurant and the adjacent building, home to the Modernism Gallery, were destroyed and early estimates of damages are in excess of $1 million.

In 1978, ATF developed the National Response Team (NRT) to assist federal, state, and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant arson and explosives incidents. The National Response Team (NRT) consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement / fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

Although the NRT has been used predominately to assist in the investigation of suspicious commercial fires, it has also been activated to the scenes of criminal bombings such as the Oklahoma City Bombing and the World Trade Center Bombing 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 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. Moreover, a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.

This is the 19th NRT activation in FY 2004 and the 575th since its
inception in 1978.

Other agencies involved in the investigation are the Coral Gables Fire and Police Departments.

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