ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

January 19, 2010

www.atf.gov

Contact: Tom Crowley

Special Agent, PIO

Cell: (214) 435-5226

ATF Enters Investigation Into Church Fires in Tyler, Texas

$5,000 Reward is Being Offered

TYLER, Texas — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with ATF special agents from Tyler have entered the investigation into two church fires in Tyler. There have been six church fires in the East Texas area since January 1st.

On Jan. 16, at approximately 6:30 p.m., fire destroyed the Tyland Baptist Church, 2818 Silver Creek Drive. Damage is estimated at one million dollars. On Sunday, Jan. 17, at approximately 6:30 p.m., fire destroyed the First Church of Christ, 106 East Second Street. Damage is estimated at $750,000.

ATF is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. Anyone with information should call the ATF Tyler office at (903) 590-1475, said Ken Chisholm, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of AT’s Dallas Field Division. ATF is working with the Tyler Police and Fire Departments as well as the Tyler Fire Marshal’s Office in the joint investigation.

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 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 assist 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 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.

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 investigation will be the 6th activation for fiscal year 2009 and the 688th activation since the inception of the program.

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.

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