Fire Officials, FBI Reacts to Alleged Al-Qaeda Threat Against Montana Forests

Fire Officials, FBI Reacts to Alleged Al-Qaeda Threat Against Montana Forests

09 May 2012

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USA — ABC 5 told you about an alleged terror threat to Montana’s forests last week. Now, local fire officials and the FBI are checking into that threat and speaking out.

It all started with an article called “It is Your Freedom to Ignite a Fire Bomb” in a supposed English language Al-Qaeda magazine called “Inspire.”

The article encouraged a lone-wolf attack, giving detailed instructions on how to light an ember bomb in a US forest, recommending Montana because of the rapid population growth in wooded areas – but Montana fire personnel say while they take the possible danger seriously. they aren’t that worried.

“Surprised, we were like really?” says Dave Cunningham with the U.S. Forest Service.

When U.S. Forest Service officials got word of a possible terror threat to Montana’s forests they were caught off guard.

“We’re not really used to hearing our national forests discussed in the context of any sort of terror,” says Cunningham.

The terrorist group behind 9-11 is advising would-be-jihadists to set fires in Montana, despite the threat – fire officials say wildfires are always a concern in the Treasure State.

“We keep doing what we’re doing; it’s always a good idea to remain vigilant. That next wildfire is really just a lightning strike or a moment of human error away anyway,” adds Cunningham.

The FBI released the following statement to ABC 5:

“The FBI Salt Lake City Division is aware of no specific, credible threat to Montana. The FBI is committed to continued collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners, and remains vigilant in its ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and security of all residents.” – Debbie Bertram,
FBI Public Affairs Specialist

Gore Hill Fire Chief Butch Weedon doesn’t view the so-called Al-Qaeda publication as a concern either.

“Their goal is to kill people, not trees,” says Weedon.

This isn’t the first time Weedon has dealt with threats to our forest; he’s seen suspicious activity before.

“I suspect that a number of fire folks like myself wonder, is this a case where somebody’s out setting a string of fires to try and cause, create something catastrophic,” says Weedon.

While Weedon agrees that forest fires can cause significant financial damage and hurt people, the Forest Service confirms that 98% of Montana fires are contained and fire personnel are expecting an incident at any minute, 365 days a year.

“It’s not that we have an added level of awareness or reactivity that we’d move to or something. We’re doing the same thing that we always do in preparation for the next incident,” adds Weedon.

Fire officials say in light of these recent headlines, this is a good opportunity to remind folks to be vigilant, to report any signs of wildfire and to also be cautious when recreating.

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