Colorado's Black Forest fire is barely contained at latest reports and has killed at least two people while consuming hundreds of homes and other structures and forcing the evacuation of more than 38,000 people, but a dozen other significant fires are also burning across the country, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Colorado has two other active fires besides the Black Forest blaze, while New Mexico has five, California and Oregon each have two, and Idaho has one. The NIFC has counted 19,472 fires through June 14, compared with 24,198 for the same Jan. 1-June 14 period in 2012.
The NIFC's historical data shows suggests no consistent pattern of increase or decrease of during the past decade, but wildfires can be categorized in a variety of ways and some national security experts warn that terrorists associated with al Qaeda and other radical Muslim outfits view such conflagrations as tools in their war against the U.S., Israel and Europe.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld of the New York-based American Center for Democracy's Economic Warfare Institute warns that last July "al-Qaeda's English-language online magazine, Inspire, published an article called 'It Is of Your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb,' which featured instructions on how to build an incendiary bomb to light forests on fire.
"A few months later, Russia's security (FSB) chief, Aleksandr Bortnikov warned, 'al-Qaeda was complicit in recent forest fires in Europe' as part of the terrorists' 'strategy of a thousand cuts.' Bortnikov spoke of 'extremist sites [that] contained detailed instructions of waging the forest jihad and stressed that such a method had proved itself effective as it inflicted both physical and moral damage, needed little training or investment and it was extremely hard for police to find and apprehend the arsonists.'
"Since then, more fatwas advocating that 'Fire is cheap, easy and effective tool for economic warfare' have been issued. They've included detailed instructions for constructing remote-controlled 'ember bombs, and how to set fires without leaving a trace.'"
Ehrenfeld notes that, while many of the recent wildfires in the U.S. have been attributed by law enforcement officials to arsonists none have pointed to al Qaeda as being responsibility for any of them. Even so, Ehrenfeld warns that al Qaeda isn't the only illegal outfit that might have an interest in setting wildfires in the U.S., pointing to the presence in this country of numerous Mexican gangs linked to the drug cartels.
Go here for more information and analysis by Ehrenfeld.