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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

April 19, 2012

Contact: SA Tom Crowley

(214) 435-5226

ATF NRT Activated to Investigate Massive Business Fire

Amarillo, Texas – The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with ATF special agents from the Dallas Field Division were requested by the Amarillo Fire Department to investigate a fire located at the Best Signs Systems, 3007 Pierce St., Amarillo. The fire occurred Wednesday night, April 18, destroying the 28,000 square-foot building. The team of two dozen agents and specialists arrived today and will start the scene investigation Friday morning.

ATF is investigating this fire jointly with our partners, the Amarillo Fire Department. We will work together to determine the origin and cause of this fire, said Robert Champion, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Division.

The Best Sign Systems building was a total loss with estimates at more than $1 million. This is the seventh activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2012, and the 728th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.

Other NRT activations in Texas include a July 2010 fire at an egg farm in Boling where a firefighter was killed; church fires in east Texas in January and February 2010; the Governor’s Mansion fire in Austin in June 2008; and a fatal Houston midrise fire in March 2007.

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 is organized geographically to cover the United States. The NRT can respond promptly 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 NRT comprises 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 team works 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 effort 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: