New Jersey Officials Issue Security Alert Violent Extremists Urging Fire as Weapon

The Division of Fire Safety has recently been made aware of recent online propaganda published by violent extremists groups encouraging the use of fire as a weapon and serves as a reminder to first responders of the risks associated with this technique. Continuous calls to attack the West, coupled with the threats associated with the use of fire as a weapon suggest that fire could be used in addition to other weapons or capabilities to exploit first responders.

Between 2008 and 2014, there have been 33 coordinated attacks against first responders, 15 of which involved actual fire and two involved hoax fire calls. Examples of incidents involving the use of fire as a weapon and the use of luring and diversion as a tactic include:

* A November 2014 Florida incident, where a subject set a home ablaze and lured first responders to the street so he could gun them down in an ambush that killed one police officer.

* An August 2014 Texas incident where a subject lured first responders by lighting a propane tank on fire and firing shots at firefighters responding to the incident.

* A March 2013 Oregon incident, where a subject lured first responders by starting a house fire and firing shots at first responders arriving at the scene, resulting in the death of a police officer.

* A January 2013 Kansas incident where a subject lured first responders by starting a house fire and ambushed first responders arriving at the scene.

Extremist propaganda, such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) publication 

Inspire, instructs readers to destroy forests, vehicles in parking garages, and buildings. Al-Qaeda, their affiliates, and domestic terrorists continue to consider fire as a viable weapon.

Setting fires has many advantages over unconventional methods of attack, including low cost, requires little technical knowledge, a potential for casualties, economic damage, media attention, and psychological effects of fear and terror. Tactics include the use of propane cylinders, liquid gas filled containers, including improvised incendiary devices (IIDs), or sabotaging natural gas lines to increase the amount of fuel for the fire.

The Division of Fire Safety recommends that first responders:

* Remain vigilant of/for large volumes of fire, including abnormal fire conditions.

* Use caution when responding to a building that has signs of forced entry.

* Consider the possibility of secondary Improvised Incendiary Devices (IIDs) or other man-made hazards associated with an incident.

* Preserve evidence, including false 9-1-1 calls for service, precursor materials, elicitation of sensitive or proprietary information, or the discovery of arson characteristics.

* Develop procedures for rapid escape and the concept of ballistic cover.

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