Federal investigators have been called in to help determine what caused the fire that destroyed a Lakewood furniture plant Tuesday.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting, but that doesn’t mean the cause of the blaze was suspicious, West Pierce Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Hallie McCurdy said Thursday.
The local agency asked the bureau’s National Response Team to help because it has more resources to handle significant fires, McCurdy said.
“We add a number of people, which allows us to process a scene … in a much more expeditious manner,” said Christopher Porreca, who leads the bureau’s national team.
The fire was reported at 6:10 a.m. at Grandwood Furniture, 7505 52nd Ave. W., and quickly grew to a three-alarm blaze that took about 50 firefighters to extinguish. The building is a total loss.
About 30 federal agents are helping with the investigation. On Thursday, they began documenting the scene and assessing the 45,000-square-foot building for safety hazards. Large equipment was brought in to remove pieces of the collapsed roof so investigators can better assess the situation.
The team also will interview witnesses and the firefighters who arrived at the fire first.
“By the time they leave, we will have a pretty good idea of where we’re at,” said Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge of the Seattle ATF office.
He cautioned that it would take several days to investigate the fire because the building was so big. Even then, he said, investigators might not be able to determine what caused the blaze.
West Pierce requested the federal assistance so it could process the scene more quickly, McCurdy said. Investigators stressed that the agencies will work side by side and that West Pierce Fire will continue looking into the fire after the national team leaves.
The ATF team is based in Jacksonville, Fla., and has 134 members.
Team members joining the Lakewood investigation were chosen for specific skills. Certified explosives specialists, fire investigators, forensic mappers, accelerate-detection dogs, electrical engineers, forensic chemists, explosives-enforcement officers and fire-protection engineers are included.
The bureau formed the team in 1978, and it has helped with about 700 investigations. This is the first time the team has come to the Pacific Northwest this year, Crenshaw said, but it helped with two or three fire investigations in the region last year.