Australian Bushfires

I was just reading the “where would terrorists strike next” thread, and something there about terrorist arsonists got me thinking - has there been any speculation in Australia about the most recent spate of fires being started by arsonists? I know there was speculation about the last Sydney fires, I think teens or somesuch being blamed, but hadn’t heard anything about the Canberra ones.
I know that Australia is a regular firball every summer anyway, but I guess what I’d like to ask is whether it’s taken into serious consideration that bushfires are a easy, low-tech, low-risk terror technique.

Moderator’s Note: Although it’s speculative, I think “Is there any evidence any of the Australian brushfires was deliberately started?” is still a question with a factual answer.

Are arsonists starting bushfires in Australia? Apparently, yes.

Yes. Arson is involved in almost all of the urban Australian bushfires. Not terrorists, just dickheads.

When conditions are right, i.e. very hot and dry, the fires start all over the place, not just at a single spot.

Some of the fires are natural, some are accidental, and some are deliberate. It’s nothing new or terrorist inspired, it’s just the way things have been for years.

Just a side note – New Zealand bushfires, while on a vastly smaller scale, are no less a magnet for the pyromaniacs in our own society. Last ones I heard about as being arson were around the hills near Wellington a while back.

They’ve been doing it since way before September 11, and they’ll still be at it after we’re dead, most likely. :frowning:

I understand the move from GD to GQ because there’s a possible specific answer, but that wasn’t my specific question - my question was, is this particular possible terror tactic being looked at as a serious threat, in Australia and also the US?

It seems a lot easier for a terrorist to just go out into the bush with some matches and some lighter fluid, than make eg truck bombs or chemical weapons. And the potential damage could be huge…I just wonder if there are measures in place to prevent it…not that I can see it being very preventable, IMO.

In a word - no.

Frankly, we’ve already got more than enough fifteen-year-old dickheads willing to light fires just for the fun of it. Any terrorist contributions would be completely lost in the crowd.

Aspidistra’s right. So many bushfires happen, whether it be by arson or natural causes, that even if a terrorist did start one it’s doubtful we’d even be able to tell.

On a slight hijack, I heard somewhere the Canberra fires were deliberately lit…anyone got any info on this? I know they arrested some teenager for trying to start fires a few days afterwards, but havent heard anything about the original city-destroying fires.

I’ll tackle the OP directly. If Osama put out a press release tomorrow saying that he’d started the fires himself, no-one would believe him. Even if he had actually done it, and provided video evidence, no-one would believe him. So it isn’t an effective terrrorist technique.

It would be like Osama claiming that he was the mastermind behind street crime in the U.S.

Yeah - also I don’t quite see Osama’s bone against poor innocent koalas, or people unfortunate enough :wink: to live around Canberra.

Seriously though, it makes me so fking MAD that these firebug brats are so selfishly reckless about all the critically endangered native fauna. I would be happy to see them burnt at the stake, for the damage they have done.

Good point - never thought of it like that, but it is terrorism after all, and I suppose bushfires, while frightening, aren’t unusual enough for Ozzies.

The terrorist aspect occured to me during last November’s Sydney fires, however I doubt it would form the primary strike.

November’s fires played havoc with Sydney’s electricity grid as fires directly underneath the high voltage feeder cables from power stations to the north triggered safety mechanisms which repeatedly tripped the city’s power supply, resulting in power surges right across the metropolitan area. I was at work twenty miles from the nearest fire, and our power surges were so bad that the technicians shut down all the machinery. With computers across the city switched off, and with the emergency services stretched to the limit attending the fires on the city fringes, I wouldn’t be surprised if any self-respecting terrorist would indeed consider a comprehensive fire starting campaign a few hours before committing another form of terrorist strike on the downtown area.

  1. Shit. It’s raining, now what do I do?
  2. Shit. It rained yesterday and everything’s still wet. Now what do I do?
  3. Shit, the temperature’s 22 degrees, there’s no wind and the fire just won’t take off. Now what do I do?
  4. Shit, it rained a whole week ago, and everything’s still damp. Now what do I do?

I think that a real self-respecting terrorist would come up with a better plan.

“Arson” doesn’t seem to be how terrorists think. They want to kill people. In their minds, killing people is the best way to grab headlines and influence public opinion.

True, but they also want to spread terror (duh). The best way to terrorise someone is to place them into a dangerous situation with which they are unfamiliar. They’ve got no idea what could happen, when or where. We’ve had 200 plus years of bushfires and we’ve become pretty good at dealing with them. (We could be better at preventing them though.) We’d be pretty pissed off if an arsonist was caught and claimed to be acting as a terrorist but I think that the general opinion would be that the person is at worst a deluded wannabe terrorist, and at best mentally ill.

Bushfires cannot be reasonably be considered a terrorist threat.

Once the weather and fuel load conditions are just right, you can almost guarantee that a fire will start. The Australian bush is designed to burn.

The Canberra fire was during a rare weather event - not only was it hot, had been dry for a long time and a lot of fuel was around; but a very hot, extremely strong wind was blowing. This made the fire unfightable, due to the intensity and rapid onset of the fire.

The recent fires were started by lightning, one autistic child and stupid kids.

Terrorist A to terrorist B “Damn, we went to start a fire but lightning (or idiot teenager) had already started one.”

What I’m getting at is that deliberately started bushfires, whilst not terrorist events in themselves, may reasonably be considered to be a possible tool terrorists may use in conjunction with another attack.

Sure, if it’s wet, cold, humid etc, it won’t be a go-er, and I doubt a terrorist with a carefully planned attack for June or July would seriously want to postpone it waiting for just the right conditions months later, which may or may not come.

However, for a hundred or so dollars’ investment, a few low-tech cigarette pack sized timed incendiary devices could be easily made if the attack were to take place in summer months. If it doesn’t work, well it doesn’t work. If it does though, it would almost certainly add to casualties by diverting emergency services to the city fringes. The cost to a terrorist organisation would be negligible, and the risk of being caught much lower than many other forms of diversion. It’s so easy and cheap, it could simply be done as an “extra”.

Dont forget, Australia HAS to have a certain amount of bushfires per year on average. there is NO WAY to prevent bushfires since all that does is make even MORE combustible debris which will cause an even worse bushfire.

One of the reasons the Canberra one was so bad was that greenies were stopping people from properly clearing their land.

Plus, I believe only about 4 people actually died from the Canberra fires. If I were a terroist, I would want something more than 4 deaths.

It was pointed out by one of the CFA co-ordinators in the aftermath that they had tried control burns in the area. However, in many cases they hadn’t been able to get the fires to back-burn. In some pockets, as little as 10 days before the fires, there was snow on the ground. And yet under the right conditions, it became an inferno.

So to get fires so hot and fast that they “crown” i.e. move, (or more graphically explode) through the tree tops required diabolical weather conditions, regardless of how the fire was lit.