Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Dallas Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
February 4, 2010
Contact: Tom Crowley
ATF Special Agent, PIO
Cell: (214) 435-5226
ATF National Response Team Activated to Investigate Church Fire in Wills Point, Texas
WILLS POINT, Texas - The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the Tyler Field Office, Dallas Field Division, have been activated to investigate a fire at the Russell Memorial United Methodist Church, located at 400 South 4th Street, Wills Point. ATF is investigating this fire in partnership with the Wills Point Fire Department, Wills Point Police Department, and the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office.
ATF will use all of the resources at its disposal to determine the origin and cause of this fire, said Ken Chisholm, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of ATF's Dallas Field Division. The church suffered extensive damage estimated to be in excess of $1million. This is the 10th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2010, and the 692nd 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 Murrah 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 forensic 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 fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at www.atf.gov.