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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

April 18, 2013


ATF SA/PIO Franceska Perot

(281) 914-8124 (cell)

ATF National Response Team Activated To Investigate Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

WASHINGTON – 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 were activated Wednesday to join the investigation of the West Fertilizer Plant fire and explosion in West, Texas. The fire and subsequent explosion occurred Wednesday evening. Agents from the local ATF office arrived on scene late Wednesday. The NRT is expected to arrive on scene late today.

This has been a week of loss and tragedy for the nation, said Acting Special Agent in Charge of ATF Houston Field Division Crisanto Perez. ATF is committed to working alongside state and local law enforcement by bringing its expertise to determine the origin and cause of this horrific incident. ATF will provide whatever resources necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers.

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to bring its expertise to federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant explosives and arson incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

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 teams‘ efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisers. Moreover, a fleet of fully equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.

This is the 6th NRT activation in FY 2013 and the 742nd since the inception of the NRT.

Other activations of the NRT in Texas include a San Antonio Church Fire in February; the Lake Jackson Bowling Center fire in November 2012; the Channelview White Elephant Flea Market fire in March 2012; the Garden Ridge fire in October 2011; the Boling Egg Farm fire in July 2010; the Church fires in Tyler and Temple in January and February 2010; the Gallery Furniture fire in Houston in May 2009 and a midrise fatality fire in Houston in March 2007.

In addition to investigating hundreds of 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 Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon crash site, as well as blasts at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.

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