ATF agents assist in San Jose Home Depot fire investigation – NBC Bay Area
Officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived Wednesday to assist in an investigation into the cause of a massive fire over the weekend at the Home Depot store in South San Jose.
Saturday’s 5-alarm fire destroyed the home supply store in the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road and forced nearby residents to shelter in place due to smoke.
The San Jose Fire Chief said his department will remain the lead agency for the investigation and welcomed investigators and office resources.
“SJFD and ATF officers will work cooperatively and quickly to take witness statements and fully investigate the cause of the fire,” San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr.
The bureau’s National Response Team and the San Jose Fire Department are in the early stages of the investigation, Special Agent in Charge Patrick Gorman of the agency’s San Francisco Field Division.
“We will continue our investigation at the scene until we reach a determination of arson, accidental or undetermined,” Gorman said in a press release.
NBC Bay Area’s SkyRanger flew Sunday night over what remains of a Home Depot south of San Jose after it was destroyed by a massive fire on Saturday.
The federal agency’s National Response Team offers expertise to federal, state, and local investigators in complex, large-scale fire and explosives incidents.
So far, investigators have speculated that the fire started in the wood section of the store.
But San Jose resident Rick Garcia, who was at the store at the time of the incident, told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday that he disagreed.
“It certainly didn’t start in the lumber business,” he said. “And I can tell you that for sure because I was in the lumber business. It actually started about two aisles down in the roofing and building materials section.
Garcia added that the section was filled with product and he thinks that could explain the trajectory of the fire. He shot video of the fire when it happened.
“What’s important about it is that he was able to keep that fire consolidated and allowed it to get hot. Because he was so focused that by the time he got up it was really, really hot because he just had a lot of fuel to catch up on the way up,” he said.
Sherrie Butts, who lives behind the Home Depot site, said she was grateful to have a home to return to. Embers from Saturday’s fire damaged the roof of his house.
Butts told NBC Bay Area she’s not surprised the ATF is now involved in the investigation and added that the flames, smoke and explosions will be hard to forget.
“Propane tanks started exploding and going everywhere. I didn’t know Home Depot had them stored there. But they did. They were exploding like atomic bombs,” she said.
Garcia said he was glad the ATF was part of the investigation.
“Yes. In the fact that they passed it on to the ATF. Which I think is reassuring in the sense that hopefully in this case they will be thorough,” he said .
Anyone with information about the April 9 fire is asked to contact the ATF and SJFD at 1-(888)-ATF-Fire (1-888-283-3473) or by visiting reportit.com, or via the “report it” mobile, available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. All calls and advice can be kept confidential.
Bay City News contributed to the report.