Five luxury homes in a subdivision marketed as “built green” were destroyed or severely damaged by fire early Monday, and evidence at the scene suggested the fires might have been started by radical environmentalists who viewed the homes as violating rather than complementing the wooded wetlands in which they were built.
The five houses were models built specifically for the 2007 Seattle Street of Dreams tour, their size and price deliberately scaled back, to about 4,500 square feet and around $2 million, to respond to what one builder, Grey Lundberg, said was an increased interest in more subdued and “green” luxury homes.
“Built green?” read letters spray-painted onto a bedsheet found hanging on a fence at the site, about 25 miles northeast of Seattle . “Nope Black!”
“McMansions + R.C.D.’s r not green,” said the sign, apparently referring to “rural cluster developments,” which advocates say help prevent sprawl by limiting development density in rural areas. The section of the development, called Quinn’s Crossing, has fewer than a dozen lots on a cul-de-sac just off Echo Lake Road , an area where modest older houses and mobile homes are more common.
The message on the sheet was signed with the letters “E.L.F.,” the infamous initials of the Earth Liberation Front . Banners have claimed E.L.F. responsibility for arsons at other housing developments in the region in recent years, and the fires on Monday came as jurors deliberated in a case involving an arson in 2001 at the University of Washington that was linked to E.L.F.
Fred Gutt, a special agent with the F.B.I’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Seattle , said of Monday’s fires, “There’s a claim of E.L.F. responsibility and, given that, it’s being investigated as a domestic-terrorism act.”
“But the authenticity of the claims still needs to be borne out,” Mr. Gutt added, noting the elusiveness of the Earth Liberation Front. “There’s no membership rolls. There’s no clubhouse. It’s more of an ideology. They’re organized only to the extent of maybe cells that get together and decide to act on their belief.”
None of the houses were occupied at the time of the fires, and no one was injured.
The Earth Liberation Front, also known as "Elves" or "The Elves", is the collective name for anonymous and autonomous individuals or groups that, according to the now defunct Earth Liberation Front Press Office, use "economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare to stop the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment",commonly known as ecotage or monkeywrenching.
The ELF was founded in the United Kingdom in 1992 and spread to Europe by 1994. It is now an international movement with actions reported in over a dozen countries and is widely regarded as the Animal Liberation Front's younger sister, because of the relationship and cooperation between the two movements. Using the same leaderless resistance model, as well as similar guidlines to the ALF, sympathizers say that it is an eco-defense group dedicated to taking the profit motive out of environmental destruction by causing economic damage to businesses through the use of direct action.