Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Houston Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
October 13, 2011
Contact: Franceska Perot, Ph.D.
ATF Special Agent, PIO
ATF’S National Response Team Activated to Investigate Home Decor Store Fire
CONROE, TX – 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 have been activated by a request from the City of Conroe Fire Marshal’s Office to investigate a fire at the Garden Ridge Pottery Home Décor Store located at 16788 I45, Conroe, Texas. The fire occurred Wednesday, Oct. 12. The team of two dozen agents and specialists arrives later today and will start the scene investigation Friday. The local ATF Arson Task Force, investigators from the City of Conroe Fire Marshal’s Office and Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office are already on the scene.
ATF is investigating this fire jointly with the Conroe Fire Marshal’s Office and the Montgomery County 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. The total loss of the store is estimated by the investigators to be $15 million. This is the first activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2012 and the 722nd activation since the inception of the team in 1978.
Other activations of the NRT in Texas include the midrise fatality fire in Houston in March 2007, the Gallery Furniture fire in Houston in May 2009, the Church fires in Tyler and Temple in January and February 2010 and the Boling Egg Farm fire in July 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 three 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.