Authorities Investigating Michigan Fires

Authorities were investigating whether members of a radical environmental group were responsible for fires early Wednesday that destroyed two luxury homes under construction.


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Authorities were investigating whether members of a radical environmental group were responsible for fires early Wednesday that destroyed two luxury homes under construction.

The nearly completed homes, which had a combined value of about $700,000, were destroyed in this community about 25 miles north of Detroit. Graffiti reading ``Elf'' and ``stop sprawl'' was spraypainted on nearby construction equipment.

Federal and state officials said they were investigating whether the Earth Liberation Front was involved. The FBI considers ELF one of the nation's most prolific domestic eco-terrorist organizations, saying it has carried out hundreds of attacks since 1996.

An anonymous spokesperson for ELF, contacted via e-mail, said the group had heard no claims of responsibility from its members for the Macomb County fires.

The spraypainting found Wednesday was similar to that found in an area near Ann Arbor where two homes under construction were burned in March. An April 1 notice on the ELF Web site indicated its activists were involved.

Suburban sprawl and land use have become controversial issues in Michigan in recent years, especially in Macomb County, where once-rural communities have seen their populations boom.