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ATF begins on-site investigation into Walmart facility fire in Plainfield

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Posted at 12:27 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 18:47:28-04

PLAINFIELD — Investigators from the ATF's National Response Team began its on-scene investigation on Friday into the massive fire at a Walmart facility in Plainfield.

The team, led by Supervisor Christopher Forkner, is working with the Plainfield Fire Territory, Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office and the Plainfield Police Department, according to a press release. ATF special agents from the Indianapolis Offices of the Columbus Field Division will also be assisting.

“ATF has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in investigating the cause and origin of fires,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Timothy Canon of the Columbus Field Division sad in the release. “We bring a unique set of skills to the scene to assist our state and local partners.”

Local officials are expected to join the ATF provided an update Friday afternoon.

Brent Anderson, chief of the Plainfield Fire Territory, said the fire is considered out but firefighters are still putting out hotspots.

He said it will move from a fire suppression operation to an investigative operation sometime Friday afternoon or evening.

ATF Special Agent Jim Mitchell said the agency's work, especially with the rain on Friday, is going to be "long-lasting." He's asking people to have patience.

Mitchell said the ATF brings a variety of resources to the scene, including seasoned fire investigators, safety officers and special agents.

The ATF provided the following information about the National Response Team in the press release:

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to bring its expertise to federal, state, and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant explosives and fire incidents. The NRT consists of three 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.

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 teams’ efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisers. Moreover, a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.

This is the 10th NRT activation in fiscal year 2022 and the 885th since its inception.

In addition to investigating hundreds of scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon crash site, as well as blasts at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations. The NRT was most recently in Indianapolis to assist with the investigation into the 2012 Richmond Hill neighborhood explosion.

A similar team was deployed to help investigate the cause of the fatal explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood in Indianapolis.

The Hendricks County Health Department and EPA released answers to FAQs for the community after the fire.

Those who have additional questions and live in Hendricks County can call the local health department at 317-718-6052. Those who don't live in Hendricks County but have questions are urged to call their local health departments.

About 350 firefighters from at least 30 fire departments have responded to the scene since the fire started around noon on Wednesday. It was quickly upgraded to a 5-alarm fire.

Plainfield Police Department Deputy Chief Joe Aldridge said the scene is being secured by officers and they will continue to do so until the investigation is complete.

Aldridge said most of the employees at the facility have been able to get their vehicles but some haven't yet.

WRTV's Rafael Sanchez contributed to this report.