(CHICAGO, Illinois - October 30, 2007) As firefighters battle to subdue the last of the wildfires that continue to ravage the Southern California landscape, arson has been suggested as a possible cause for at least some of the devastation.
The following comment on that possibility is from Jay Lehr, Ph.D., science director for The Heartland Institute. You may quote from this statement or contact Lehr directly for further comment.
"When one looks at the pattern of 15 fires that raged in Southern California during the past week, it does not take a rocket scientist to conjecture over the difficulty nature might have in creating them simultaneously in such a random manner.
"Since arson has clearly been indicated in three of the fires, it is not difficult to reach the conclusion that many more, if not all of them, are the result of terrorist arsonists. It is also likely that the brilliant arson investigators in the employ of our nation's fire-fighting teams will not only prove arson but be able to track down many of the perpetrators.
"Smart money will lay odds that the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is responsible. ELF was founded by members of Earth First! to carry out the more radical activities of the environmental movement. The group's professed goal is to wreak maximum economic damage on those who they feel benefit by, in their opinion, negatively impacting the Earth. One can read that as meaning anyone contributing to the progress of mankind on the planet.
"In the past 15 years of their existence, ELF has proven responsible for fire destruction throughout the west, notably in San Diego, California and Vail, Colorado. In 2006 the FBI launched a major effort--dubbed "Backfire"--to corral ELF. The effort resulted in the arrest and conviction of 18 ELF followers.
"One young girl, Chelsea Gerlach, was arrested for setting numerous fires between 1996 and 2006, causing more than $20 million in damage. She said she did it because she was disturbed over the declining state of the Earth.
"The Earth Liberation Front is difficult to eliminate, deter, or infiltrate because it has no members, leaders, or spokespersons. It's a loose-knit group that simply encourages emotionally unstable persons to strike out against activities they think harm the Earth in order to educate the public on these issues.
"ELF may not intend to directly endanger the lives of people, but of course that cannot always be avoided, as has been dramatically demonstrated by this latest series of California fires."
Jay Lehr, Ph.D.
The Heartland Institute