Thursday, September 20, 2012

Western foresters think terrorists might start fires

Western land managers said they received notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday that terrorists might start forest fires in stands of beetle-killed trees to cause widespread chaos and cost the federal government millions in fighting them, Robert Gehrke of The Salt Lake Tribune reports. It's unlikely the threat will be realized, even though it could make forest neighbors more wary. There's also the possibility that media coverage could spread the idea in the wrong circles.

Utah Division of Forestry director Dick Buehler said the agency is taking the threat seriously. It was reported in May that an al-Qaida-affiliated magazine published articles encouraging people to set fires in the U.S., particularly in Utah, Idaho and Montana, Buehler told Gehrke. The threat referred to dry conditions and stands of dead, beetle-scarred trees, which he said was an indication that someone was paying attention to forest conditions. The division investigates every forest fire, and said none of this summer's were started by terrorists. FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram told Gehrke she couldn't confirm that an FBI bulletin regarding terrorist-started forest fires was sent, but Utah Rep. Ken Ivory said a "terrorism expert" told him forests were a target. (Read more)

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