TEMPLE, Texas, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with ATF special agents from the Austin Field Office, Houston Field Division, have been activated by a request from the Temple Fire Department to investigate a fire at the First Baptist Church. The fire at the church, located at 102 West Barton, Temple, occurred on Jan. 19. The team of about 20 agents and specialists will start the scene investigation tomorrow morning. Some of the local agents and investigators are already onsite.
"ATF is investigating this fire jointly with the Temple Fire Department. 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. He estimates total loss of the church to be approximately $15 million. This is the 8th activation of the NRT in fiscal year 2010, and the 690th activation since the inception of the team in 1978.
Other local activations of the NRT in the area include the mid-rise fatality fire in Houston in March 2007, the Governor's Mansion in Austin in June 2008 and the Gallery Furniture fire in Houston in May 2009. Currently there is another active NRT in the Tyler, Texas area at several recent church fires.
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 four 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.
SOURCE Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives