Flames destroyed at least three model homes and damaged two others in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville after five separate fires ravaged a development of eco-friendly luxury homes early Monday morning. The homes were furnished but unoccupied, and no injuries were reported. Firefighters are letting the fires burn out for fear of booby traps; explosive devices were found in four of the homes set fire, according to the Seattle Times.
Multiple media outlets, including seattlepi.com and the Associated Press, are reporting that the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a loosely organized group of radical environmentalists who are suspected of other arsons in the Northwest, may be linked to the fires. The speculation was fueled by a sign found at the scene that reads, "Built Green? Nope Black! McMansions + RCD's [rural clutter development] not green. ELF"
The models were part of the 2007 Street of Dreams, an annual showcase of luxury homes in the Seattle area. The $2 million homes, which were more than 4,200 square feet, incorporated green building practices such as water-pervious sidewalks, super-insulated walls and windows, and products made with recycled materials.
According to Jayme Mattson, director of operations for Grey Lundberg/CMI Homes, the company’s home, which achieved 5-Star Built Green Seattle certification and NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines Gold, was “100% destroyed.”
“It is absolutely nothing but a pile of ashes,” Mattson told Green Products and Technology. “It is a shame that anyone would want to do this to a green community.
“It is very sad about how this is going, especially since the home was so energy efficient,” Mattson continued. “I think whoever did this didn’t do their research on what went into building this community.”
While Mattson and police are not speculating that ELF is responsible, other industry insiders are. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) is renewing a $100,000 reward first offered in 2005 for the arrest and conviction of ELF members burning down homes in Washington state.
“While ELF used to spike trees and sabotage logging equipment, they’re now burning down homes,” said BIAW president Brad Spears in a statement. “ELF’s increasingly brazen attacks on urban targets have BIAW and law enforcement worried that it is only a matter of time before someone is hurt or killed by ELF terrorists.
“BIAW hopes providing the $100,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of ELF terrorists will assist the FBI in capturing these criminals,” Spears added.
No reward was offered by the NAHB, but president Sandy Dunn says the association rebukes ELF’s actions.
“The 235,000-member National Association of Home Builders strongly condemns the criminal actions of the radical and violent environmental group known as the Earth Liberation Front in a suburb north of Seattle, Wash., this morning, where at least four new homes were destroyed by arson,” Dunn said in a statement. “The FBI has previously identified ELF members as domestic terrorists and attributed many millions of dollars worth of damage to new homes and communities to this extremist group. ELF’s heinous crimes do nothing to further the cause of environmentally sensitive home building, and everything to degrade ELF’s own image in the public eye as a group of violent thugs who seek to damage and destroy property and put human lives in danger."
Officials of the Street of Dreams and other builders involved in the development could not be reached for comment. A message posted on the Street of Dreams Web site by John Heller, president, reads:
“Early this morning, we spoke with the Snohomish County Fire Chief on the scene at the fire at the Quinn's Crossing subdivision where last summer's 2007 Seattle Street of Dreams took place. At the time, he said that three of the homes were completely destroyed, they were able to control the fire on the fourth home, and that one home was saved. We were informed that all five homes had 'sets.' We were also informed that the FBI, ATF, and the Snohomish County Sheriff were on the scene and are investigating.
“We are stunned by this event, and we thank God that each of the homes were unoccupied and that there were no apparent injuries.”
Green Products and Technology will continue to follow the events of this breaking news story.