ATF National Response team investigating massive Emeryville fire

Just days after a massive fire severely damaged a building project in Emeryville, The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team, with experts from around the country, are now at the scene to find the cause and origin of the fire.

On Wednesday night, there was armed security guarding the site during the overnight hours.
ATF officials say their goal is to find the cause and origin of the fire.

The Nation Response Team, made up of 25 experts from around the country, is now working with the agency's local investigators and Alameda County Fire.

"Our personnel have begun actually examining the scene as of today," says Patrick Gorman, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge, San Francisco division.

Gorman says the team is examining piles of debris looking for evidence.

"An example of something that may be collected for evidence may be a piece of fire debris that could contain an accelerant," says Gorman.

Officials tell KTVU some potential evidence has already been sent to a national ATF laboratory that is based in Walnut Creek for examination.

The Nation Response Team is examining surveillance video and interviewing witnesses.

This is the second time in 10 months a fire burned at this construction site. The first was back in July.

ATF would only say the first fire was determined to be intentionally set, but declined to release further details, including whether the two fires are linked.

"It's not a great feeling to live in fear and not know when and where it will happen again," says Mae Barnett, a neighbor who lives just steps from the fire scene.

She and other neighbors have dealt with both fires.

Barnett says it didn't sit well when she heard the developer plans to build again.

It is supposed to be 105 apartments with retail.

"Luckily there's no death. No lives were lost, [it] keep happening. He's just worried about rebuilding. We're worried about our safety," says Barnett.

Gorman says the investigation is conducted with no preconceived notions.

"We will come in with a blank slate. We will examine all the evidence and review everything. In the end, the goal is determine whether it was accidental, incendiary or undetermined."

"Here we are again. Let's see what happens this time. Maybe it'll be a better process. Maybe we'll get an answer," says Barnett.

Gorman describes this as a complex case. The size of the scene is one reason why ATF was brought in to help. He says it's difficult to say how long it will take to get answers.

The National Team will remain here for days, if not longer. KTVU reached out to the developer but did not hear back.