ATF agents deploy to WVC to investigate business that lost millions in fire

Posted at 3:47 PM, Oct 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-27 19:24:32-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Fifteen members of the National Response Team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating a fire that destroyed a West Valley City business Sunday morning.

ATF agents are sifting through debris left behind from the blaze that ripped through Nemko, just before 2:30 a.m. on 1940 W. Alexander Street. The international company, which tests electronics, lost everything.

Initially, when West Valley City fire investigators assessed the damage, they estimated about $1 million to $2 million.

That number has since jumped to $11 million, which covers mostly the electronic equipment housed inside the building.

“They have a lot of high-end dollar equipment,” said Ron Humphries, assistant special agent for the ATF Denver field division.

Federal investigators have stepped in to assist the West Valley City Fire Department because of the amount of damage.

“It meets the federal threshold with the dollar amount of the damage to the structure,” Humphries said.

The team is made up of fire, structural and electrical engineers. Agents will use 3-D mapping to digitally recreate the scene and learn more about how the fire started.

“We are subject matter experts on arson, explosive investigations,” Humphries said.

West Valley City fire investigators say the 12,000-square-foot building did not have a fire alarm or sprinkler system.

A motion sensor set off an alarm alerting an on-call employee who lived nearby. When he got on scene, the building was fully engulfed in flames, and he called 911.

ATF agents will spend a week on site gathering evidence and talking to witnesses. They can’t say for sure if it’s arson, but they’re not ruling anything out.

“We've got to have it as a blank slate. It could go from nothing to something,” said Steve Cordle, national response leader of the Central Region.

It’s been a busy month for the ATF National Response Team. This is the fifth incident they’ve been called to investigate this month.

Currently, they’re investigating an apartment fire in Kansas City, Mo., that took the lives of two firefighters.