Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Houston Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2009
Contact: Franceska Perot, Ph.D.
ATF Special Agent, PIO
(281) 372-2908 (office)
(281) 914-8124 (cell)
Or Elias Bazan (956) 661-7930 (office)
ATF National Response Team Activated to Investigate School Fire in Rio Grande City, Texas
RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the Houston Field Division and McAllen Field Office have been activated by a request from the Rio Grande City Fire Department to investigate a fire at Fort Ringold Elementary School. The fire at the newly remodeled school occurred on January 13, 2009. The team of about 20 agents and specialists will start the scene investigation tomorrow morning. Some of the local agents are already onsite.
ATF is investigating this fire jointly with the Rio Grande City Fire Department and the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office. We will work together in partnership to determine the origin and cause of this fire, said Dewey Webb, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Field Division. He estimates that damage to the building to be approximately $9 million. This is the tenth activation of the NRT in Fiscal Year 2009, and the 668th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.
In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to investigate in partnership with federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant arson and explosives incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to work jointly with state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations. In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing and the 9/11 Pentagon crash site, as well as explosions at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.
The teams are each composed of veteran special agents who have post blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise; forensic chemists; explosives enforcement officers; fire protection engineers; accelerant detection canines; explosives detection canines; intelligence support, computer forensic support and audit support. The teams work alongside state and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the bombing/arson.
Further complementing the team’s efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisors. Moreover, a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.
ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating major fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at www.atf.gov.