National response team arrives in Tulsa after TSAS fire

TULSA - Members of the ATF's (Department of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) National response team arrived in Tulsa on Thursday.

The crew is determining the cause of a massive fire that destroyed the home of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday.

View pictures from the scene at http:// bit.ly / ThWi2Q .

The National Response Team was called in because there was a series of explosions that injured eight firefighters.

The school opened up in the Barnard Elementary building just weeks before the fire. Some renovations were still under way at the time of the fire.

The Barnard Elementary building has anchored the North end of the Gillette Historic District since the 1920s. It has been a midtown fixture for the better part of a century.

Alan English, outgoing president of the Gillette Historic District, lives just a few houses away from the school.

"It's just gone," he said as he surveyed the damage to the building. "We are really going to miss it."

"I saw it yesterday as it was burning. It was very sad," he said. "I didn't have tears, but a lot of people did."

Now that the flames are out, the search for answers begins. A team of 21 ATF agents from around the country will use their extensive resources and expertise will help local investigators.

"Our job and our responsibility is to assist. This is Tulsa Fire's investigation," says ATF Response team Leader Brian Hoback. "We are here to help them. Not take over."

Hoback says this team has specialized investigators, engineers, chemists -- even an accelerant-sniffing dog. These are tools that most fire departments, including Tulsa, don't have.

"The concept is to get a good head start on the investigation real quick," Hoback said. "So what we do is, we throw a lot of assets to the investigation on the front end."
    
Hoback says, judging from the size of this 40,000 square foot building, it should take about week to wrap up.

As of Thursday evening, Tulsa Fire Capt. Stan May says three of the eight fire fighters who were injured remained hospitalized in good condition. He anticipates they will remain in the hospital through Monday.

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