An “intentional incendiary act” is what authorities at a Nov. 30 press conference say was the cause of the deadly July 20 Iconic Village apartment fire in San Marcos, which killed five people and displaced more than 200.
The San Marcos Fire Department and the Houston Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which was leading the investigation, are now offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of a suspect.
ATF Special Agent Fred Milanowski said the investigation, which involved multiple agencies including an ATF special unit team which worked on the Austin Bombing investigation, is still on-going. Investigators are asking the public for any tips regarding the fire.
“ATF is classifying this fire as incendiary,” Milanowski said. “That means it was intentionally set. That means this is a criminal investigation now.”
The samples from the scene were sent to the ATF national laboratory where extensive testing has occurred to trace the source of the fire.
Investigators said the fire violated both state and federal laws; however, authorities were unable to answer how the suspect will be charged until more information is present.
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau said his office is not yet involved with the investigation until a suspect is found. Mau said he has worked on incendiary cases in the past, but not of this magnitude.
Investigators, however, did not release additional information at this time. That includes information on how and where the fire was set.
Milanowski said he can “definitively” state that no arrest has been made at the time.
“Right now it’s just not appropriate to talk about evidence in a criminal investigation,” Milanowski said. “
The Iconic Village Fire, which impacted the Texas State and San Marcos communities, sparked community-wide concern about fire safety standards at the apartment complex.
Investigators at the press conference said fire alarms did sound, triggering an alert to the fire department. However, reports at the time of the fire alleged Iconic Village did not have a sprinkler system, despite the complex being fire-code compliant, sparking community outcry for updated regulations.
Les Stephens, San Marcos fire chief, said the fire department met with families of the victims prior to the Nov. 30 press conference about the advances made in the case. Authorities did not release additional information about those discussions.
“The message to parents is this: when you send your kids off to college, find out where your kids are going to live at,” Stephens said. “Make sure there are sprinkler systems in place. Make sure that the smoke alarms are working before you leave your kids where they are going to live at. Have an active role in selecting a place they are going to live at.”