San Jose

ATF Agents Assisting Investigation Into Home Depot Fire in San Jose

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Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived Wednesday to assist with an investigation into the cause of a massive fire over the weekend at the Home Depot store in South San Jose.

The 5-alarm fire on Saturday destroyed the home supply store in the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road and forced nearby residents to shelter in place due to smoke.

San Jose's fire chief said his department would remain the lead agency in the investigation, and welcomed the bureau's investigators and resources.

"Agents from SJFD and ATF will work collaboratively and expeditiously to gather witness statements and thoroughly investigate the cause of the fire," San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr. said.

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 come to the determination of either incendiary (arson), accidental or undetermined," Gorman said in a news release.

NBC Bay Area's SkyRanger flew over Sunday evening of what's left of a south San Jose Home Depot after it was destroyed by a massive fire Saturday.

The federal agency's National Response Team offers expertise to federal, state, and local investigators with large-scale and complex fire and explosive incidents.

So far, investigators have speculated the fire started in the store’s lumber section.

But San Jose resident Rick Garcia, who was at the store at the time of the incident told NBC Bay Area Wednesday that disagrees.

“It definitely didn’t start in the lumber area,” he said. “And I can tell you that for sure because I was in the lumber area. It actually started about two aisles over in the roofing and building materials section.”

Garcia added the section was stacked high with products and he thinks that might explain the fire's path. He shot some video of the fire when it happened.

“What’s significant about that is that it was able to keep that fire consolidated and allowed it to get hot. Because it was so concentrated that by the time it got up, it was just really hot because it just had a lot of fuel to catch on its way up,” he said.

Sherrie Butts, who lives behind the Home Depot site said she is grateful to have a home to return to. Embers from Saturday’s fire damaged the roof of her home.

Butts told NBC Bay Area that she is not surprised ATF is now involved in the investigation and added it will be hard to forget the flames, smoke and explosions.

“The propane tanks started blowing up and going everywhere. I didn’t know Home Depot had them back there storing. But they did. They were going off like atomic bombs,” she said.

Garcia said that he’s glad ATF is part of the investigation.

“Yes. In the fact that they’ve escalated it to the ATF. Which I think is reassuring in the sense that, hopefully, in this case, they’ll be thorough,” he said.

Anyone with any information about the April 9 blaze is asked to contact ATF and the SJFD at 1-(888)-ATF-Fire (1-888-283-3473) or by visiting, or through the mobile "report it" app, available both on Google Play and the Apple App Store. All calls and tips can remain confidential.

Bay City News contributed to the report.

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