ATF begins investigation: 800,000 chickens dead

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ Dallas Field Office issued the following news release:  

The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with ATF special agents from Lubbock Field Office, Dallas Field Division, have entered the investigation of a large fire that occurred July 9 at the Cal-Maine Foods egg production plant in Farwell, located in far West Texas.  "The fire occurred at approximately 5:30 p.m., and it is estimated that 800,000 chickens were killed.  The NRT arrives at the scene today. The fire destroyed four of the nine laying houses at the site, as well as killing some hens at a fifth house. Damages are estimated at $20 million," said Ken Chisholm, assistant special agent in charge of ATF Dallas Field Division.

ATF is working with the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Parmer County Sheriff’s Office in the joint investigation.   The NRT is being brought into the fire investigation because of the difficulties presented when investigating a fire of this size.    

Five separate buildings, each approximately 24,000 square feet, were destroyed; and four fire fighters were injured from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation during suppression efforts.  

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 20th activation for fiscal year 2009 and the 678th activation since the inception of the program.  

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at