Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Houston Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
June 23, 2010
Contact: Franceska Perot, Ph.D.
ATF Special Agent, PIO
(281) 372-2908 (office)
RAC Frank Arredondo (956) 764-7940
ATF National Response Team Activated to Investigate Clothes Warehouse Fire
LAREDO, TX — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the Laredo Field Office have been activated by a request from the Laredo Fire Department to investigate a fire at Jerry’s Ropa Usada (Jerry’s Used Clothes). The fire at the warehouse, located at 1402 Santa Rita Ave. Laredo, Texas 78040 occurred on Sunday, June 20, 2010. The team of about 20 agents and specialists will start the scene investigation tomorrow morning. Some of the local agents and investigators are already onsite.
ATF is investigating this fire jointly with the Laredo Fire Department. 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 total loss of the warehouse to be over $1 million. This is the 17th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2010, and the 699th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.
Other activations of the NRT in the Texas include the midrise fatality fire in Houston in March 2007, the Governor’s Mansion in Austin in June 2008, the Gallery Furniture fire in Houston in May 2009 and the Church fires in Tyler and Temple in January and February of 2010.
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.