Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Houston Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
March 19, 2012
Martin Young, Group Supervisor
(281) 914-8129 (cell) or
Lt. Dean Henley, Harris Co. FMO, PIO
(281) 733-1843 (cell)
ATF’s National Response Team Activated to Investigate Channelview Flea Market Fire
CHANNELVIEW, TX — Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) along with ATF Special Agents from the Houston Field Division have been activated by a request from the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office to investigate a fire at the White Elephant Flea Market located at 15660 East Freeway (I–10), Channelview, Texas. The fire occurred early Friday, March 16. The team of two dozen agents and specialists arrived late today and will start the scene investigation in the morning. The local ATF Arson Task Force and investigators from the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office are already on the scene.
ATF is investigating this fire jointly with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. We will work together in partnership to determine the origin and cause of this fire, said Gary Orchowski, ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Field Division. The total loss of the flea market is estimated by the investigators to be $750,000. This is the 5th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2012 and the 726th 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, the Boling Egg Farm fire in July 2010 and most recently the Garden Ridge fire in October 2011.
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.