Retired Buffalo fire investigator gives perspective on fire probe and the ATF’s National Response Team

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A specialized unit from the ATF has been called in to help investigate the cause of the fire on Main Street, that claimed the life of Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno.

The ATF’s National Response Team has been called in to help investigate the fire. For some perspective on what that means and the ongoing investigation, News 4 spoke to a retired Buffalo fire investigator with more than 20 years of experience.

“They are going to go and sift this building like cockroaches, it’s going to be over there, it’s going to be hot,” said retired captain Edwin Ortiz of the Buffalo Fire Marshal’s Office.

Ortiz has 25 years of experience responding to and investigating fires. We spoke to him about the meticulous work that goes into conducting fire investigations.

“You go from the least damage to the most damage and, like you were saying, specialized equipment, these guys can go in there and test the wood, they can measure the wood and figure out the direction that the fire started the “v pattern” is what we look for and that’ll tell you where the point of origin is,” Ortiz said.

Now joining the investigation is the ATF’s National Response Team, which has been deployed hundreds of times since the 1970’s and has responded to major disasters such as 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The unit has with them state-of-the-art equipment.

“They are phenomenal, they come in with fire experts, they come in with interview experts, they come in with forensic experts, evidence collections, they bring a lot to the table and it’s a big team,” Ortiz said.

They’ll be assisting Buffalo Fire, State Fire Marshals and other agencies. The help is very much needed.

“Sifting through the debris, going through that building step-by-step, inch-by-inch you’re going from floor to ceiling, left to right, up and down, you have to go through that building totally,” Ortiz.

Ortiz says this investigation will likely take months. He doesn’t see the building coming down anytime soon and not until investigators have all their evidence from the scene.

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.

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