SAN ANTONIO -- An arson expert testified Thursday that tear gas pumped into the Branch Davidian compound last April played no role in starting the fire that destroyed the building, killing more than 80 people.
James Quintiere, who is with the University of Maryland Fire Protection Engineering Department, was questioned by prosecutor John Phinzy in the trial of 11 Davidians charged in the slayings of four federal agents.
Phinzy asked Quintiere what part the tear gas played in the April 19 fire.
'In my opinion, it played no role, and I took a hard look at that,' he said.
Quintiere said the liquid form of tear gas used by the FBI in an ill- fated attempt to force a Davidian surrender was 'almost impossible to ignite with a match.' A tear-gas vapor fire would have exploded, which did not occur, he said.
Prosecutors also showed a special videotape of the fire to display the development of three fires in the living quarters, kitchen-dining area and the chapel of the Mount Carmel complex.
The film analysis by Quintiere also pinpointed the exact times the fires began. The first fire was detected at 12:07 p.m., and the two subsequent blazes broke out at one-minute intervals.
Another witness, William Cass, chief arson investigator for the Los Angeles Fire Department, also testified that investigators brought in after the blaze determined that the fires were set in those three areas of Mount Carmel.
Two previous reports by independent investigators and the government have blamed the Davidians for setting the fires that destroyed the compound, killing cult leader David Koresh and more than 80 of his followers.
The 11 Davidians are charged in the deaths of four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents who were shot in a gun battle Feb. 28, 1993, when they tried to serve a search warrant on Koresh for illegal firearms.