MONTCALM TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - Federal investigators are near Greenville trying to figure out what started a huge fire at Nelsons Speed Shop.
The fire sparked around 1:30 a.m. June 22 at the business on M-91. Ten fire departments were called to the scene and doused the flames that caused $5 million in damage to the 50,000-square foot building.
==== Photos of the fire ====
It was the second major fire at Nelson's Speed Shop in 11 years. That first Sept. 2001 was an arson in connection to which three men were convicted. Two of the fire-setters were paid by a Lansing-area competitor.
Since the Nelson Speed Shop fire was so large and arsonists hit the business in 2001, the Michigan State Police called in specialized help.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has brought its specialized people and equipment to the scene for the June 22 fire -- something you don't typically see at a fire.
The ATF's National Response Team is made up of experts from arson investigators, electrical engineers and structural experts -- the kind of people who can go in and say "this is something to look at" or "that doesn't look right."
The regional teams have been called in on major incidents, like the World Trade Center attacks, the Atlanta Olympics bombing and attacks on churches and abortion clinics throughout the U.S. and abroad.
There are three such teams in the U.S. They only get called out 25 or maybe 30 times a year on average.
"We have electrical engineers, chemists here, a cadre of special agents, and they work together as a team to find what was the cause of this fire," explained Phil Awe, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Detroit ATF office.
Officials have not yet determined a cause. They're not ruling out anything.
Investigators believe if anyone can get those answers, it's the Response Team.
"These people are highly-qualified. So if they can't figure it out, then we probably won't determine what the cause is," said Awe.
Right now they're focusing their effort on the back of the building. That is where they think the fire started.
Tuesday, they used a large crane to lift pieces of roofing off the fire-gutted building.
"Once they get the roof off and can determine it's safe, our cause and origin specialist will go inside and try and find out where the fire started and what was the possible cause," explained Awe.
The Response Team will be at the Montcalm Township business until the end of the week and then hand their findings over to ATF investigators in Grand Rapids and Detroit.
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
Two Kalamazoo men are in jail after Kalamazoo officers found them with money stolen from Sunny Mart Friday afternoon.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.