ATF team comes to St. Charles to investigate country club fire

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ST. CHARLES, MO (KPLR) - A National Response Team from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms arrived at Bogey Hills Country Club Monday morning to begin its investigation into a fire that destroyed the main building.

The ATF has national three teams, one is St. Charles another is investigating an apartment fire in Anchorage, Alaska.

The national team is made up of the cream of the crop of fire investigators in the world.

The ATF is the only federal agency that investigates fires and was invited here by state and local officials.

It’s likely the ATF team will be here all week. Just because they’ve been called in by state and local officials does not mean they suspect arson or something suspicious. They were called because they are good at investigating the aftermath of large fires.

“As far as processing the scene, it’s a mammoth undertaking; so we come in with our resources and with a lot of people, we can assemble very quickly,” said John Ham, an ATF spokesman.

What could take a local fire department weeks to investigate the ATF team can look into in only days.

There are about 20 team members. One half of the group interviews possible witnesses in the area and talks with the firefighters who were on hand when Bogey Hills went up in flames.

“What they saw and what they heard when they entered the building, that all is important to us,” Ham said.

Investigators talked to neighbors like Micah Hummel.

"I don’t think it hurts to have everything checked, that way you find the real answers,” she said.

The other half of the ATF national team will sift through the ashes like chemists. Those folks are said to be the cream of the crop in their field.

“We have developed some of the best fire investigators in the world,” Ham said.

The ATF Command Vehicles have everything the team needs.

“We have all of our capabilities just like were sitting behind our desk at an ATF office, all of that is mobile,” Ham said.

Plus, they have cutting edge laboratories.

When called, team members are dispatched from all over the country. When they arrive, everything is on table as far as a cause. Sometimes they don’t find the answer.

“Even with all of our expertise, if we can’t pinpoint the exact cause of the fire, we will call the fire 'undetermined,'” Ham said.

If they do find a cause it will likely be weeks or months before results are known. Some of the folks worked the Ferguson fires after the rioting and the big warehouse fire in San Francisco that killed three dozen people.

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