U.S. Intelligence Officials Warned Last Year That Terrorists Could Start Wildfires Across U.S.

Federal authorities have also warned of radical environmentalists committing arson to advance their cause

Last year federal officials drafted a memo warning about the threat of terrorist-initiated arson attacks on woodland areas throughout the U.S.

In a bulletin sent from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to first responders, the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT) advised that foreign terrorist organizations are encouraging arson attacks in the U.S. because of their “perceived simplicity and potential to cause significant and widespread damage.”

“Arson-initiated wildland fires in the US, especially in the west, result in major human, property, infrastructure, environmental, and economic losses,” the ODNI stated. “About 40 percent of all U.S. homes are in wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, putting these communities at greater risk of wildfires.”

Intelligence analysts highlighted a video released by the Sunni jihadist group ISIS, which urged supporters to conduct arson attacks in forests, fields, cities, and villages. The terrorist organization also directed arsonists to ensure they safely disposed of evidence in order to hinder law enforcement investigations.

The FBI has previously warned that radical left-wing environmentalists were committing arson throughout the U.S., in what the agency described as “eco-terrorism.” Federal officials have considered eco-terrorism America’s number one domestic terror threat.

In a now-deleted post, Homeland Security officials in Maryland said the FBI was investigating at least 41 incidents of eco-sabotage, “specifically direct action against railways and rail lines connected to oil production.”

It is unclear why authorities deleted the post, but according to an archived version of the page, during one incident of eco-terrorism, a train derailed and caught on fire in Custer, Washington, resulting in 29,000 gallons of crude oil being spilled and the evacuation of 120 people.

The ODNI report cited a number of specific examples of calls to arson, as well as incidents were arsonists have been sentenced:

  • 2021: Authorities arrested a Los Angeles arson suspect in connection with a fire that burned more than 500 acres
  • 2019: A California man was sentenced to the death penalty for setting a 2006 fire that resulted in the deaths of five firefighters
  • 2019: A U.S.-based ISIS supporter, who was indicted, wanted to set fire to the Berkeley Hills mountain range in California — a recognized WUI vulnerable to fires.
  • 2017: An ISIS English-language magazine published instructions to make incendiary devices and urged supporters to target woodlands and buildings.
  • 2016: Authorities arrested a man for setting a fire in Claifornia, which burned 4,000 acres and destroyed nearly 200 buildings.
  • 2012, Al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine provided instructions for building a “timed incendiary device” and suggested targeting urban areas adjacent to wildlands, in order to destroy natural resources, structures, and vehicles.

JCAT also warned that terrorists may damage power conductors or electrical infrastructure that could start a fire. Officials say that terrorists may opt to set multiple fires to amplify chaos and panic.

“Concurrent wildland fires undercut the effectiveness of the initial response by dispersing limited resources and requiring law enforcement to manage multiple routes to evacuate the public while keeping ingress open for responding units,” the report stated.

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