It’s an old science, just like geo-engineering.
Thinking wildfires are really wild in the 21st Century is naivety.
FOREST FIRE AS A MILITARY WEAPON
A June 1970 Report of study commissioned by the Dept of Defense.
In 1965 the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested that the Secretary of Defense initiate research to determine the feasibility of measuring the flammability characteristics of forests and jungle growth, modifying flammability so that vegetation would readily support combustion and developing measures to destroy large areas of forest or jungle growth by fire. This research has been conducted by the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, under sponsorship of the Advanced Research Projects Agency through ARPA Order 818. The primary research attention was given to the flammability characteristics of jungle growth in tropical and monsoonal climates where forest fires seldom occur naturally.
- August 2006
- Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29(5):23
The United States is at grave risk of a future pyro-terrorist attack. We must define the threat, understand America’s vulnerabilities with regard to it, and take action to mitigate this danger to our homeland. While America focuses on the readily apparent scenarios of smuggled nuclear weapons and radiological bombs, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are adapting to avoid our security and screening systems. Instead of using expensive, complex, and readily detectable nuclear or radiological bombs, a future terrorist could easily ignite multiple massive wildfires that would severely damage our regional economies, impact our military forces, and terrorize the American population. An opportunistic terrorist could create a conflagration potentially equal to a multi-megaton nuclear weapon. This phenomenon is defined as pyro-terrorism: the use of arson attacks to terrorize the civilian population and coerce the government to comply with the terrorists’ political or social objectives. Arson, the destruction of property with fire for profit or revenge, is the tactic. It is the political and psychological intent that differentiates pyro-terrorism from arson. This paper will describe pyro-terrorism, discuss how existing terrorism tactics and future intent define the threat, assess America’s vulnerability to pyro-terrorism, and identify various actions the U.S. Government must take to mitigate this vulnerability. If terrorist organizations use arson as a tactic, and publicly assume responsibility for the massive fires it causes, the perception of a secure homeland among the populace would quickly erode. The fire’s devastation could overwhelm suppression resources, weaken regional economies, destroy critical infrastructure, effect readiness in military forces, and put political pressure on national leadership for policy change.
There is more literature out there on the topic, but I think these two documents define and prove a spectrum of possibilities and one simple point: wildfires go wild only if people allow them to. But that rarely happens.
It’s pyroterrorism more often than not.
Much life farm and food plant fires lately.
To be continued?